Life Sciences Seminar: The Evolution and Genetics of Mating Preferences

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life sciences seminar mingzi xu

The Evolution and Genetics of Mating Preferences

Dr. Mingzi Xu
Department of Ecology
Evolution and Behavior
University of Minnesota

Attendees will learn about sexual selection theory, mate choice provides a powerful explanation for the evolution of courtship phenotypes. Dr. Xu will present a study on the genetic basis underlying signal-preference co-evolution in the Laupala crickets in addition to future research on the variation, evolution and genomics of mate choice in the anthropocene age.

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In sexual selection theory, mate choice provides a powerful explanation for the evolution of courtship phenotypes. Yet how mate choices evolve and in the first place and what is the genetic and genomic basis of preference evolution remain a major gap in evolutionary biology. My research aims to elucidate the evolution and genetics of mating preferences by combining behavioral ecology, quantitative genetics, and evolutionary genomics. In this talk, I will first present a study on the genetic basis underlying signal-preference coevolution in the Laupala crickets, where male song pulse rate and female preference for pulse rate have coevolved repeatedly. Through selective introgression and quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping, I simultaneously localized the QTL underlying interspecific variation in pulse rate and preference. Remarkably, map estimates of the two loci are only 0.06 cM apart, representing the strongest evidence to date for genetic coupling between signal and preference loci. Subsequent annotation of the QTL region pointed to the cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel-like gene. This gene is related to a group of genes functioning both as pacemakers in multiple muscular systems and as regulators of auditory coincidence detection, making it a promising candidate for a pleiotropic gene that can regulate both male singing and female preference. Next, I will present a new and independent line of research I have established as a postdoc fellow at University of Minnesota on the variation, evolution, and genetics of choosiness (i.e., how picky a female is in her mate choice), which I expect to continue at RIT. My data indicated both a large amount of individual variation in choosiness and moderate and significantly non-zero within individual repeatability in choosiness. Interestingly, choosiness for different male traits are positively correlated, indicating that in a population, although females differ in how choosy they are, they select males accordingly to a similar rule. The first grant I plan to submit will follow up these findings and will investigate heritability, genetic correlation, and epigenetic/genetic basis of choosiness variation using Laupala cerasina as a model system. Last, I will briefly mention my future research on the temporal stability of mate choice in wild populations of crickets in relation to fluctuations in the environment, such as climate change and human generated noises.

Speaker Bio:
Dr. Xu is a postdoctoral fellow with the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. She is an evolutionary biologist interested in the evolution and genetics of sexual behaviors and mating preferences. Her research focuses on evolution of mating preferences and genetic mechanisms that enable phenotypic evolution of mating preferences. She incorporates a variety of approaches integrating ecology, Quantitative genetics, and genomics in her research.

Intended Audience:
Undergraduates, graduates, and experts. Those with interest in the topic.

Lori Hyde
Event Snapshot
When and Where
April 16, 2021
1:25 pm - 2:15 pm
Room/Location: See Zoom Registration Link

Open to the Public

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