Nabokov’s Butterflies at USU’s Science Unwrapped

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We (Lauren and I) gave a public talk as part of USU’s Science Unwrapped series on the connection between art and science in Vladmir Nabokov’s work as a novelist and systematist and the connection of his work to our own on Lycaeides butterflies. PhD student Amy Springer made a guest appearance as Nabokov and the whole lab was involved in activities related to talk. Check out the full video below, which includes a butterfly release by kids in cages.

Watch the video.

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Butterfly release.

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Nabokov resurrected getting set up for a camera lucida demonstration.

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Lauren leading a wing pattern classification demonstration.

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The whole gang.

New paper provides evidence of balancing selection on color in stick insects

In a new ‘From the Cover’ paper out in Molecular Ecology (led by Doro Lindtke), we show that color and color pattern in Timema cristinate map to a single region of reduced recombination (likely an inversion) and that overdominance (i.e., heterozygote advantage) promotes the persistence of green and melanistic color morphs. The paper was accompanied by a News and Views piece on the role of balancing selection in the maintenance of variation.

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This photo, taken by Moritz Muschick, shows green (unstriped) and melanistic Timema cristinae color morphs and appears on the cover of Molecular Ecology volume 26, issue 22.

No evidence that gut microbes are an important factor in host shifts in Lycaeides, paper out now

 

Sam’s paper assessing determinants of variation in Lycaeides melissa caterpillar gut microbiomes is out now in Scientific Reports. We were interested in whether evolutionary or plastic changes in gut microbiome were critical in colonizing novel host plants. Our results presented in this paper suggest that this isn’t the case, and join a growing body of evidence pointing towards a more limited role of gut microbes in Lepidoptera in general (relative to other taxonomic groups where gut microbes are clearly important for growth and development).

You can listen to Sam discuss this work and her research more generally on this Slightly Evolved podcast.

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Evolution 2017

This is a bit late, but several folks from the lab gave talks at the Evolution meeting in Portland this June. In case you missed them, here are links to video recordings on YouTube.

Lauren Lucas. Genetic constraints on wing pattern variation in Lycaeides butterflies.

Samridhi Chaturvedi. The predictability of genomic changes underlying a recent host shift.

Alex Rego. Genomic basis of rapid adaptation to a low quality host plant.

Amy Springer. Inbreeding depression in an ecological context.

Speciation in stick insects, paper and cover image

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Our paper on speciation in stick insects made the cover of Nature Ecology and Evolution (image by Moritz Muschick). In this paper we show how multiple factors come together for speciation to move from early to late stages of isolation and genomic differentiation, and we identify a distinct gap in genomic differentiation between con- and hetero-specific populations in sympatry.

You can read more about the paper in these blog and news articles:

Eco-evolutionary dynamics blog

EurekaAlert

Business Standard

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Cytoptype (ploidy) inference from GBS data

We recently published a paper in Molecular Ecology Resources describing a method to determine ploidy in mixed ploidy samples from low to modest coverage GBS-like data (paper). This relies on both estimates of heterozygosity and allele specific read depth. The method we describe is implemented in the R package, gbs2ploidy. You can read more about it in this informative blog from the Molecular Ecologist.

New paper and cover image in Freshwater Biology

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Lauren’s paper on patterns and rates of gene flow within four narrowly endemic, spring-associated species is now out in Freshwater Biology. An image from the study of the amphipod Stygobromu made the cover (see above). The paper makes nice use of approximate Bayesian computation to contrast rates and models of gene flow among distantly related sympatric taxa.

Nabokov, art, science and butterflies

Vladmir Nabokov is probably best known for his work in fiction (he wrote Lolita, among other things), but he was also a Lepidopterist. In fact, he was responsible for much of the early systematic work on the butterflies we study, Lycaeides. Lauren’s book (she contributed a chapter, Stephen Blackwell and Kurt Johnson were the editors) connects his work in art and literature to his science. Its out now (you can get it here)! Her chapter highlights how our own research has been influenced by Nabokov. Vladmir Lukhtanov wrote a nice review of the book for Nature.

Detecting selection in natural populations

Molecular Ecology published a special issue on detecting selection in natural populations. It included our paper, which introduced a new method for estimating selection from genetic time-series data (allele frequencies), along with interesting  papers on detecting polygenic selection (Stephan 2016), promises of combing experimental evolution with population genomics (Bailey & Bataillon 2016), and considerations for conducting genome scans (Haasl & Payseur 2016) (along with many interesting empirical papers). Check it out!