Abstracts (first author)
The ‘omics’ of non-model animals
The rapid development of genomic technology has made unprecedented tools available to evolutionary biologists working with non-model organisms. In recent years, my group at BGI-Shenzhen has developed a series of collaborative genomic projects in with European scientists, particularly with the University of Copenhagen. Several of these focus on complex societies of fungus-growing (attine) ants and (macrotermitine) termites. We have recently completed six ca. 100x genomes and overall transcriptomes covering the crown-group-lineages of the attine ants, and we have sequenced the unusually large genome (1.3 GB) of a fungus growing termite and its fungal symbiont. These reference genomes are now allowing functional gene-expression studies and the development of accurate recombination maps and comparative DNA-methylation studies. These will hopefully shed light on some of the major evolutionary transitions (specialization of fungal crop symbionts, increasing caste differentiation, the evolution of multiple queen mating) in the attine ants. I am also co-directing an avian phylogenomic program to resolve a number of long-standing questions. We have completed about 50 new bird genomes and conducted comprehensive analysis to reconstruct phylogenetic history and link genome-wide differences in evolutionary rates and gene family representation to key adaptations that underlie the different ecologies of the major bird lineages.