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Female power: A study of reproduction in fungus gnat flies and the effects of climate change

Maria Shlyakonova



Year of study:

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From a young age, we learn that genetic information is inherited. Children receive one copy of their chromosomes (the molecules that encode genetic data) from each of their parents, and they then pass on only one of those copies to their own children, regardless of which parent the copy originated from. This rule of chromosome inheritance in sexual reproduction, whereby chromosomes have an equal chance to be transmitted to the next generation, is how human beings pass on their genetic information. But dotted on the tree of life, is a world of animals that defy ‘normal’ biology, with bizzare and weird exceptions. 

In my research at the Ross Lab in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (University of Edinburgh), I study one of those exceptions: the fungus gnat fly (Lycoriella ingenua). Not only do fungus gnats have an alternative sex determining system, in which females (egg-producing organisms) alone determine the sex of their offspring, they also have no paternally-inherited genetic information transmitted from the males (sperm-producing organisms). They therefore only transmit the chromosome copies they received from their own mothers.

Furthermore, fungus gnat flies are widely regarded as an agricultural pest and a vector for disease transmission between plants. 

And so, I am studying whether the ratio of male and female offspring an individual female produces is inherited by her own daughters, and whether temperature affects this ratio, with the aim to potentially mitigate the impact that fungus gnats have on agriculture. 


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