The genetics of biodiversity

Time period: 2018-01-01 to 2027-12-31

Project leader: Leif Andersson

Funder: Swedish Research Council

Type of award: Research environment

Total fundning: 47 600 000 SEK

The aim is to explore the relationship between genetic variation and biodiversity by combining genetic screens in non-model organisms (e.g. Atlantic herring and Darwin’s finches) with functional follow up-studies where we study gene function in depth using cell-based studies and transgenic animals. The merit of the Atlantic herring is the huge population size and extremely low genetic differentiation at neutral loci, which facilitates the detection of signatures of selection. We will use the herring to study genetic adaptation to the brackish Baltic Sea, timing of reproduction, a recently evolved sex-determining locus and hybridization between Atlantic and Pacific herring. The Darwin’s finches is an iconic model in evolutionary biology. We will carry out low pass whole genome sequencing of about 3,000 birds with phenotypic records with the aim to explore the evolution of phenotypic diversity in this adaptive radiation. We intend to study the following genes that have been identified in our genetic screens: (i) ZBED6 associated with genetic control of muscle growth in mammals, (ii) ZC3H11A associated with the replication of multiple viruses in mammalian cells, (iii) HMGA2 associated with growth and body size in vertebrates, (iv) SEC16B associated with juvenile obesity and age at menarch in humans and with spring-spawning in the Baltic herring and (v) TSHR associated with timing of reproduction in the Atlantic herring.