Project Description

The maintenance of sexual reproduction, despite its costs relative to clonal reproduction, remains a conundrum in evolutionary biology. One potential solution to this problem is the Red Queen hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that parasites might exert selective pressure against common genotypes, thereby allowing rare (typically sexual) genotypes to persist. In this project, a research apprentice would test this hypothesis by identifying genotypes and reproductive mode (sexual or clonal) of New Zealand freshwater snails. These snails are found in naturally occurring mixed populations of asexual females and sexual females and males. They are also parasitized by a highly virulent trematode. By identifying reproductive mode and genotype frequencies of infected and uninfected snails, the student researcher can directly test the key prediction of the Red Queen hypothesis; that common genotypes should be more infected than rare genotypes, and over infected genotypes should decline in subsequent samples.

Technology or Computational Component

The project involves analyzing SNP genotype data and KASP ratios to determine unique genotypes and reproductive mode. The collected data will be formatted and analyzed using R. The student researcher will also work closely with another undergraduate who is identifying reproductive mode (from independent samples) using flow cytometry.