Within the Brazilian mangroves resides some of the most unique organisms on Earth: killifish. Specifically, two species within the genus Kryptolebias, which are the only known vertebrates to reproduce through self-fertilisation. What impact does this unusual mating system have on their population genetic structure? Dr Waldir Berbel-Filho ventured into the inhospitable mangroves to discover the answer.
Join Prof. Daniel Blumstein (UCLA) as he discusses his new popular science book The Nature of Fear: Survival Lessons from the Wild. Prof. Blumstein has scoured the animal kingdom in search of better ways for us to live wisely with this primordial emotion and cope with risk. It’s a journey that’s involved diving with giant clams, biking through tiger country, and developing an inordinate fondness for marmots.
The genetic structure of a population can shape an organism’s ecology and evolution. However, that structure often changes depending on the geographic scale you’re looking at. In this episode Dr Alex Twyford (University of Edinburgh) discusses the complicated genetic structures displayed by an emerging model – the yellow monkey flower, Mimulus guttatus. A proud botanist, Dr Twyford also explores the issue of ‘plant blindness’: the unfortunate tendency of biologists to overlook the research value, and potential, of plant systems.
Museum collections play a vital role in active research and conservation programmes, and in this episode we’re going to explore a prime example of just how valuable they can be. Join Kyle Ewart (University of Sydney; Australian Museum Research Institute) and Leo Joseph (Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO) as they discuss their recent research on the iconic red-tailed black-cockatoo, and their discovery of a new subspecies that was hidden in plain sight.
Motivated by a series of mass mortalities, a team of marine biologists voyaged across the Caribbean in search of a poorly understood organism – the vase sponge. Join Dr Sarah Griffiths (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Prof. Donald Behringer (University of Florida) as they discuss the complex population genetic structures they uncovered, and the potential impact of their spongy discoveries on marine conservation and restoration efforts.
Speciation is often considered unidirectional: a continual process of divergence interrupted only by extinction events. However, this isn’t entirely true. In this episode Dr Jente Ottenburghs (Wageningen University) discusses the curious case of the bean geese: where speciation appears to have stopped and, perhaps, begun to reverse.
The antagonistic co-evolution that characterises host-parasite relationships is one of the most fascinating interactions in genetics. In this episode, Dr Gilberto Bento discusses one such interaction, the Daphnia–Pasteuria host–parasite system, and the discovery of an alternative route of bacterial infection associated with a novel resistance locus. Dr Bento also talks about his experience of leaving academia to find an alternative career in science.
In episode five of our editorial series we meet Dr Rui Faria from the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources at the University of Porto (Portugal). Dr Faria’s research looks at the role of chromosomal inversions in the generation of biological diversity, focusing on Littorina snails as a model. And, in a more personal inversion, Dr Faria took his first steps behind a scientific journal when he joined the Heredity Editorial team in May 2019: tune in to discover how he made the leap and what he thinks makes a great paper submission.
The arms race between the highly toxic rough-skinned newts of North America and the garter snakes that prey upon them is a literal textbook example of evolution in action. However, it appears that a piece of the genetic puzzle underpinning this interaction has been overlooked, until now. In this episode, PhD candidate Kerry Gendreau (Virginia Tech) and Dr Michael Hague (University of Montana) discuss their recent work showing that toxin resistance in garter snakes is sex-linked, and the implications this has for a system that is taught to almost every biology student.
Associated article: Sex linkage of the skeletal muscle sodium channel gene (SCN4A) explains apparent deviations from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium of tetrodotoxin-resistance alleles in garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis)
Chimpanzees are humanities closest cousins, and they’re close to disappearing. In this episode we hear from Peter Frandsen (Copenhagen Zoo, University of Copenhagen) and Claudia Fontsere (Barcelona Biomedical Research Park), who are developing new genetic tools to aid in the conservation of this iconic species.
Associated article: Targeted conservation genetics of the endangered chimpanzee
What impact does the initial size of a population have on an organism’s ability to adapt to its environment? In this episode we investigate this question with Dr Yashraj Chavhan and Prof. Sutirth Dey from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, India. Their results hold important insights for many aspects of population genetics.
The world is currently gripped by COVID-19, but could an often overlooked population genetic theory hold one of the keys to defeating it? In this episode we speak to Prof. Michael Lynch (Arizona State University) about a recent Comment he penned with Prof. Jeffrey Jensen, where they consider mutational meltdown as a potential SARS-CoV-2 treatment strategy.
Associated article: Considering mutational meltdown as a potential SARS-CoV-2 treatment strategy
French Polynesia is South Pacific paradise, and thanks to an eccentric aviculturist it is also host to an interesting evolutionary experiment. In 1937, Eastham Guild released silvereye birds on Tahiti, from where they dispersed to other islands. Now they form the perfect system for testing the roles of drift and selection in rapid morphological divergence. Join Ashley Sendell-Price (University of Oxford) as he discusses his resent research on silvereyes, and stick around for some views on LGBTQ+ communities in STEM at the end. A Genetics Society Heredity Fieldwork Grant supported Ash’s research
In episode four of our editorial series we meet Dr Giorgio Bertorelle from the University of Ferrara, Italy. An animal population and conservation geneticist, Giorgio is fascinated by the impact human activities have on the evolution of animal genomes.
Poison dart frogs are an iconic group of tropical animals. But how and when did their spectacular warning colourations evolve? And are they really a signal to predators? In this episode we explore these questions with Diana Rojas and Adam Stow, as they discuss their recent forays into the depths of both Amazonia and modern molecular methods to unravel the evolutionary history of colour diversification in the splash-backed poison frog, Adelphobates galactonotus.
In episode three of our editorial series we meet forest engineer turned plant geneticist Prof. Dario Grattapaglia. A highly experienced researcher and editor, Dario brings a unique and heavily applied focus to his work. His story and views on publishing are sure to inspire many!
In episode two of our editorial series, we meet Dr Marc Stift (University of Konstanz). A plant evolutionary geneticist with three years under his belt at Heredity, Marc has also authored five papers in the journal (so far). This gives him valuable perspectives from both sides of the process. What has he learnt? What tips can he give for writing a successful manuscript? And what makes him scientifically tick? Tune in to find out.
Charles Darwin described it as the most complex mating system in the natural world. Famed statistician Ronald Fisher was fascinated by it. And this episode’s interviewees braved 40 °C heat and caimans to unravel some of its mysteries. What is it? Tristyly — a rare and mysterious plant mating system. Tune in to hear what Dr Nicolay Cunha and Prof. Spencer Barrett learnt about this system from the pickerel weeds of Brazil’s Pantanal.
Behind the pages of Heredity there lies a group of incredibly dedicated, brilliant scientists—our editors! Who are they? What do they actually do? What kinds of research are they passionate about? What are they looking for in a good manuscript? These are the kinds of questions we are going to explore in a new series of episodes dedicated to these unsung heroes of scientific publishing. First up, we have Dr Alison Bentley, a crop specialist who leads a +40 group of researchers as Head of Genetics and Breeding at NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany).
In this episode we explore the nature vs. nurture debate in one of humanities closest companions – Dogs! Why do they do the things they do? Are their behaviours hardwired into their DNA? Tune in and listen to Dr Juliane Friedrich, Dr Pamela Wiener and Dr Marie Haskell as they discuss complex genetic behaviour traits in German shepherd dogs, working with the Swedish Armed Forces, and how their research has shaped the way they view their own pets behaviour.
Associated article: Genetic dissection of complex behaviour traits in German Shepherd dogs
The annual Population Genetics Group Forum is an important, and much beloved, conference in the fields of genetics and evolution. As registration opens for the 53 meeting of PopGroup (University of Leicester, 5th – 8th January 2020), we hear what’s in-store from three of the people organising it: Dr Rob Hammond, Dr Richard Badge and PhD student Max John. We then delve into the history of this wonderfully unique conference with three of its longest serving delegates: Prof. John Turner, Prof. Laurence Cook and Prof. John Brookfield.
Fish farming, or aquaculture, is an important source of animal protein, particularly in developing nations. Unfortunately, aquaculture is highly susceptible to outbreaks of infections disease. In this episode, Lior David and Roni Tadmor-Levi (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) discuss their work trying to identify the genetic basis of disease survival in the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) when challenged with the koi herpes virus (Cyprinid herpesvirus 3).
An essential aspect of life is reproduction, and an essential aspect of reproduction is sex… except when it isn’t. While common in invertebrates, asexual reproduction is only seen in around 90 vertebrate species. And in this episode, Dr Susana Freitas (University of Lausanne, Switzerland) explains her work looking at the hybrid origin of parthenogenesis in what may be the best-studied asexual vertebrate—Darevskia lizards.
Species are often thought of as discreet and separate from one another. However, hybrid zones often form between closely related species, providing the opportunity to test many evolutionary hypotheses. In this episode, we talk to Dr Henrique Batalha-Filho (Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil) and Dr Marcos Maldonado-Coelho (Lund University, Sweden) about their work characterising a hybrid zone between two spinetail bird species in the Atlantic rainforests of Brazil… we also hear from the birds themselves.
The Faroe Islands are a North Atlantic archipelago, famed for being a Viking stronghold. However, for the past few centuries the islands have themselves been besieged by one of the world’s greatest invaders: the brown rat. In this episode, Dr Emily Puckett (University of Memphis) and Dr Eyðfinn Magnussen (University of the Faroe Islands) discuss their recent paper looking at the current and historical population genetics of the brown rat. It’s a story that takes us from 18th century shipwrecks right into the modern genomic era.
Associated article: Genomic analyses reveal three independent introductions of the invasive brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) to the Faroe Islands
How do you breed a high-production cow fit for a changing world? It’s rare that we discuss the impact of climate change on cattle agriculture, yet it’s important to consider how rising temperatures will impact this important part of the global food chain. In this episode, Prof. Ismo Strandén, Prof. Juha Kantanen and Prof. Michael Bruford discuss a simulation-based approach for identifying optimal breeding strategies. It’s an approach that may help produce a productive yet temperature resilient dairy cow by identifying the best way to mix the desirable genomic traits of both commercial and rare breed stocks.
Collaboration is an essential aspect of modern science, and the authors featured in today’s episode epitomise this relationship. In our most ambitions interview to date, all four first authors of a recent Heredity paper come together to discuss their work looking at range expansions in the blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus). Their results provide a cautionary tale for researchers interpreting population genetic data, especially when dealing with potential meta-populations.
Storytelling facilitated both the emergence of the scientific discipline and the evolution of human intelligence. At least, that’s what Prof. Enrico Coen argues. A former President of the genetics society, Prof. Coen, from the John Innes Centre, has two articles in the recent Heredity Special issue commemorating 100 years of The Genetics Society. In the first, he creatively recounts the rise of Homo geneticus, and in the second he delves into the history and importance of human storytelling. Tune in to hear a grand tale of genetics and discover how your research could benefit from a little more storytelling.
We tend to think of science as objective, but as with any human endeavour it is fraught with biases: cognitive, technical, personal and cultural. Interestingly, it turns out that inheritance can also be biased, with the transmission of genes often displaying anything but ‘fair’ segregation. As the Genetics Society celebrates its centenary, join president Prof. Laurence Hurst as he discusses 100 years of bias in genetics and evolution, how he fell in love with the field (despite poor first impressions), his thoughts on science education, and his hopes for a playful future for the study of genetics and evolution.
Associated article: A century of bias in genetics and evolution
May 2019 Episodes:
Is evolution faster in the tropics?
Why do the tropics contain such a diversity of life? In this episode, we explore this question with Matt Orton and Prof. Sarah Adamowicz from the University of Guelph. Listen to them discuss their recent research paper – Is molecular evolution faster in the tropics? – and hear about the challenge it poses to the long standing Evolutionary Speed Hypothesis.
Associated article: Is molecular evolution faster in the tropics?
Orchids in the clouds
This episode explores the genetic structuring of orchids in the cloud rainforests of Ecuador. While we mainly think of orchids as ornamental houseplants, many wild species are vulnerable to poaching or deforestation. In a recent Heredity paper, Professor José Iriondo (King Juan Carlos University, Madrid) and colleagues investigated the fine-scale genetic structure of an unassuming orchid in a regenerating patch of Ecuadorian rainforest—working in a landscape unlike any other, they have discovered a mysterious population dynamic that so far eludes explanation, but does highlight vital conservation considerations for this iconic family of flowering plants.
Complex fine-scale spatial genetic structure in Epidendrum rhopalostele: an epiphytic orchid.
April 2019 Episode:
From the days of Darwin and Mendel, studies on colouration have played a vital role in deciphering the mechanisms of natural selection and genetic heredity. While this work has encompassed many species from all branches of the tree of life, a particularly noteworthy one is the incredibly colour diverse grove snail, Cepaea nemoralis. In this special double-whammy episode, we discuss two recent Heredity papers on this unassuming, yet beautiful, little mollusc by Dr Angus Davison (University of Nottingham) and colleagues. The first takes a quantitative approach to determining the colour phenotypes of over 1000 grove snails, while the second investigates the underlying genetics of this colour polymorphism. The insights gleaned from these studies have important implications for how we conduct studies on animal colouration, and also challenge long held assumptions about the evolution and role of supergenes.
March 2019 episodes:
Animal colouration is fascinating! Conspicuously affected by natural selection, an animal’s colour pattern can impact many aspects of its life: from how well it can attract a mate to its success at avoiding predation. Of course, they can also be incredibly beautiful. In this episode, we hear from Dr Jake Morris (University College London – UCL) about his recent research investigating the genetic basis of wing patterns in the postman butterfly (Heliconius melpomene): a delicate, visually striking, toxic mimic found across South and Central America.
How repeatable is evolution? This is one of the biggest questions in modern day biology, and until recently it seemed unanswerable. However, the growing number of known cases of parallel evolution—where two closely related organism adapt to an environment in the same way—is revealing just how predictable evolution can be. In this episode, Dr Allie Graham (Oregon State University) and Dr Kevin McCracken (University of Miami) share their recent work looking at the convergent molecular adaptation of three species of South American ducks to low oxygen, high altitude environments.
A fascinating mosaic has recently been discovered in the Mediterranean, and we’re not talking about the famous tiled art. Here, we’re talking about a genetic mosaic in the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) that stretches for over 600 km along the North African coast. What led to this incredibly large hybrid zone? Dr Nicolas Bierne from the University of Montpellier explains all in this episode of the Heredity Podcast.
The associated scientific article is published in Nature: The hidden side of a major marine biogeographic boundary: a wide mosaic hybrid zone at the Atlantic–Mediterranean divide reveals the complex interaction between natural and genetic barriers in mussels.
February 2019 episodes:
When we think of Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection, the mind conjures images of exotic voyages to distant lands. However, in reality, Darwin’s theory was more heavily influenced by his observations on the process of domestication, which he made in his own backyard. The evolution of domestic animals still fascinates biologists, and in this episode of the Heredity Podcast Dr Amir Fallahshahroudi discusses his recent research on the genetic basis of domestication in the chicken. This work has focused in on the pattern of gene expression in the pituitary gland, a small organ that lies between the brain and the rest of the body: could this ‘master gland’ of hormone production also be controlling the development of the ‘domestic phenotype’?
While there is little doubt that the grey wolf is one of the world’s most iconic species, it is equally true that it is one of the world’s most reviled. This later sentiment has seen them extirpated from much of their former habitat. However, in a few places, wolves are making a comeback. In this episode of the Heredity Podcast, Sarah Hendricks, Dr Rena M. Schweizer and Prof. Robert Wayne discuss their recent research exploring the genetic history of naturally re-established wolf populations in the US states of Oregon and Washington: their discovery that some of these populations represent a genetic mixing of two distinct ecotypes presents challenges for current conservation policy in the country, and raises the question: what wolf belongs where?
Access all the recent and archived podcasts from the Heredity website.