Ecological Adaptation

The role of adaptation in driving divergence between species has been an indelible question in evolutionary biology, dating back to Darwin. But few studies have addressed the genetic basis for adaptation in a genetically tractable organism. Many questions remain, including: What are the genes that underlie adaptation to a new niche? Are there many of them, or only a few? Are they linked, in any way, to the genes that underlie reproductive isolation? Is specialization on a specific resource a reversible process? These questions are best answered once the identity and nature of the genes underlying specialization are known. 

Within the D. simulans clade, D. sechellia has undergone a remakable specialization in under 300,000 years. While most Drosophila are generalists that feed on a wide variety of rotting fruit, D. sechellia is primarily found utilizing the ‘vomit fruit’ (inset image), Morinda citrifolia, which is toxic to other Drosophila species. I have used quantitative genetics and whole genome sequencing to reveal the genetic basis for this trait. I am currently using quantitative and experimental methods to reveal the genes that underlie the major loci, to understand the role that they play during development, and to learn about how they contribute to divergence between species.

 © Deniz Erezyilmaz 2015