Heredity Podcasts

The Heredity podcast with Michael Pointer features interviews with the people behind the journal, the science and a digest of breaking news.


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25th October 2023 - Frank Hailer - Research, reviews and his role at Heredity

We tend to focus on research studies on the podcast, but review papers are a hugely important part of the scientific literature. This week we talk to Frank Hailer, reviews editor, who demonstrates his passion for using genetics in his work and talks about why he loves his job at Heredity.

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27th September 2023 - Galpagos island history shapes populations​

Barriers to gene-flow control population connectivity, but what barriers exist in the sea? How similar is the connectivity of island marine organisms to those on land? As with many evolutionary questions, the Galapagos is the perfect place to find answers. Max Hirschfeld and Christine Dudgeon discuss their new work with the Galapagos bullhead shark.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “What Darwin could not see: island formation and historical sea levels shape genetic divergence and island biogeography in a coastal marine species”..

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30 August 2023 - Grokking effective population size, with Robin Waples

What is effective population size (Ne), and why is it important? Robin Waples takes us back to the basics of this important evolutionary concept and discusses his new paper, using simulations to demonstrate that Bill Hill's 1972 equation for calculating Ne still works for populations with extreme reproductive patterns.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Robustness of Hill’s overlapping-generation method for calculating Ne to extreme patterns of reproductive success”.

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25 July 2023 - Tracing the introduction of the common myna

Kamolphat Atsawawaranunt and Anna Santure discuss how they have used diverse samples of DNA to trace the introduction history of the common myna from its native range across its invasive distribution in the Pacific.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Tracing the introduction of the invasive common myna using population genomics”.

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28 June 2023 - Genomic prediction in Honey Bees​

In this episode, Richard Bernstein (Institute for Bee Research Hohen Neuendorf) discusses the development of the first genomic prediction model for honey bees. Genomic prediction is well established in the breeding of many commercial species, but wasn’t possible in honey bees until now. Richard fills us in on what genomic prediction actually is, why its useful and why prediction for bees is so tricky.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “First large-scale genomic prediction in the honey bee”

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24 May 2023 - Snakes, sex and conservation genetics

In this episode, Prof Thomas Madsen (Deakin University) discusses how a long-term study of an adder population has provided evidence that polyandry and non-random fertilisation can have positive effects on genetic diversity.

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19 April 2023 - Runs of homozygosity in Rum Red Deer

In this episode, Anna Hewett discusses how different factors have led to the patterns of homozygosity observed in a population of red deer living on the Scottish Isle of Rum.

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22 March 2023 - Hello, hello and goodbye

After five years with the journal, James Burgon is leaving the Heredity Podcast. But fear not! Because the podcast is being left in a pair of safe and familiar hands. In this episode we meet our new host: Michael Pointer. Editor-in-chief, Prof Sara Goodacre also features- check it out!

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22 February 2023 - Australasian snapper demographics

Tom Oosting discusses his research on the population demographics of the Australasian snapper, an economically important fish found in the waters around New Zealand. This study combines modern sampling with museum samples collected from pre-colonial Māori middens.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Mitochondrial genomes reveal mid-Pleistocene population divergence, and post-glacial expansion, in Australasian snapper (Chrysophrys auratus)”

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25 January 2023 - The best student-led papers in Heredity, Vol. 3

Every year, Heredity publishes some outstanding student-led papers, and to recognise the quality of this work the journal runs a student paper prize. So, what makes a paper stand out? Find out, as Co-Editor-in-Chief Aurora Ruiz-Herrera joins the podcast to explore the three best student-led papers of 2022.

“Find the full Student Prize Longlist Collection here.”

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21 December 2022 - Life in the cold

Dr Emiliano Trucchi (Marche Polytechnic University) and Dr Céline Le Bohec (University of Strasbourg; Monaco Scientific Center) discuss the genetic basis of cold adaptation in the emperor penguin. Céline also shares her experience of visiting Antarctica.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Selection-driven adaptation to the extreme Antarctic environment in the Emperor penguin”

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24 November 2022 - The cradle of cat domestication

In this episode, Dr Sara Nilson (University of Nebraska–Lincoln), Dr Jared Decker (University of Missouri) and Prof. Leslie Lyons (University of Missouri) discuss their quest to find the geographical origins of cat domestication.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Genetics of randomly bred cats support the cradle of cat domestication being in the Near East”

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26 October 2022 - Connecting the toads

In this episode, Dr Paul Maier tells us about his research on the landscape genetics of the Yosemite toad, which only inhabits high-altitude meadows in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Landscape genetics of a sub-alpine toad: climate change predicted to induce upward range shifts via asymmetrical migration corridors”

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Sociality in mammals

Social interactions play an essential role in the lives of many animals. But how do we disentangle the genetic and non-genetic factors influencing sociality? In this episode, Dr Irene Godoy (Bielefeld University) tells us about her research on sociality in capuchin monkeys.

“Genetic, maternal, and environmental influences on sociality in a pedigreed primate population”

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Connecting the Toads

In this episode, Dr Paul Maier tells us about his research on the landscape genetics of the Yosemite toad, which only inhabits high-altitude meadows in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

“Landscape genetics of a sub-alpine toad: climate change predicted to induce upward range shifts via asymmetrical migration corridors”

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Activity, sleep, and mitochondrial variation

Can the sleep and activity patterns of fruit flies help us better understand human metabolic disorders? It’s a big question, and one that we are going to touch upon today, as we hear from Dr Pedro Vale, Katy Monteith (University of Edinburgh), and Lucy Anderson. This episode also touches upon the undergraduate research experience, first publications, and the benefits of peer-review.

“Variation in mitochondrial DNA affects locomotor activity and sleep in Drosophila melanogaster”

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Mendel to Modern Genetics

On the 20th July, The Genetics Society held a fantastic Garden Party to celebrate the 200th birthday of Gregor Mendel: a man regarded by many as the "father of modern genetics". In this episode we showcase a talk given on the day by Prof. Alison Woollard (University of Oxford) titled: ‘Mendel to Modern Genetics’.

You can find a recording of the full event on the Genetics Society’s YouTube channel and you can also find the Heredity Special Issue - Mendel 200th birthday, here.

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Meiosis and the evolution of sex chromosomes

The XY sex-determination system of therian mammals has persisted for over 160 million years: but why? In this episode Aurora Ruiz-Herrera (Autonomous University of Barcelona) and Paul Waters (University of New South Wales) discuss the evolution of sex chromosomes and role of meiosis.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Fragile, unfaithful and persistent Ys—on how meiosis can shape sex chromosome evolution".

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Asian oriole museomics

The genetic material locked within museum collections could help us better understand and conserve the world around us. In this episode PhD student Mario Ernst (Natural History Museum, Berlin) and Dr Knud Jønsson (Natural History Museum of Denmark) explain how, as they tell us about their work on a charismatic group of birds: the Asian orioles.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Utilizing museomics to trace the complex history and species boundaries in an avian-study system of conservation concern”.

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Grey reef shark demographics

Hidden within shark genomes are clues to the evolution of marine biodiversity hotspots. In this episode, Dr Paolo Momigliano (University of Vigo), tells us about his work on the grey reef shark: from fishing in the tropical waters of the Coral Triangle to detailed demographic modelling.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Genomic insights into the historical and contemporary demographics of the grey reef shark”.

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Recast: Getting to know Heredity

In this episode we revisit an inspiring episode that answers the question: why should you publish in Heredity?

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Galápagos giants

The giant tortoises of the Galápagos archipelago form one of the most iconic evolutionary systems in the world. But is all as it appears? Join Dr Evelyn Jensen (Newcastle University) and discover how museum specimens are reshaping our understanding this famous radiation.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “A new lineage of Galapagos giant tortoises identified from museum samples”.

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Wild barley relatives

Barley is one of the world’s oldest and most important cultivated cereal grains. But it’s long history of domestication has resulted in greatly reduced genetic diversity, which isn’t ideal for plant breeding efforts. So, in this episode, Che-Wei Chang and Prof. Karl Schmid (University of Hohenheim) discuss their quest to find useful genetic variation in wild barley relatives.

This episode explores the recent Heredity paper: “Physical geography, isolation by distance and environmental variables shape genomic variation of wild barley (Hordeum vulgare L. ssp. spontaneum) in the Southern Levant”.

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The best student-led papers in Heredity, Vol. 2

Every year Heredity publishes some outstanding student-led papers, and to recognise the quality of this work the journal runs a student paper prize. So, what makes a paper stand out? Find out, as we hear from overall winner Dr Allie Graham and 2nd runner-up Johanna Denkena.

Explore the full Student Prize Longlist Collection here.

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PopGroup 55 Special

In this episode we explore the 55th Population Genetics Group Meeting. Tune in to get a taste of what this conference has to offer as we hear from organisers, plenary speakers, and student prize winners.

This episode was made in collaboration with Mike Pointer, host of the Abstract Bioscience podcast.

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Genetic Purging

Inbreeding depression is often considered to be a bad thing, especially in conservation programmes. However, that may not always be the case. In this episode Dr Eugenio López-Cortegano (University of Edinburgh), Dr Eulalia Moreno (Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas) and Prof. Aurora García-Dorado (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) discuss a surprising benefit of inbreeding in small, endangered populations.

In this episode we explore the recent Heredity paper: “Genetic purging in captive endangered ungulates with extremely low effective population sizes”.

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The Best of 2021

Join host James Burgon as he shares his highlights from the past year of the Heredity Podcast.

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Surprising little lemurs

Join Prof. Anne Yoder (Duke University), Dr Mario dos Reis (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr George Tiley (Duke University) as they discuss their recent work looking at mutation rates in the gray mouse lemur. It’s a story that takes us from a house party to the bleeding edge of genetics research, with a detour through the scandalous sex lives of mouse lemurs.

In this episode we explore the recent Heredity paper: “Pedigree-based and phylogenetic methods support surprising patterns of mutation rate and spectrum in the gray mouse lemur”.

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PopGroup55: Norwich

The Population Genetics Group Meeting comes to Norwich this January (05th – 07th). In fact, it's coming to a lot of places. Tune in to find out how this beloved genetics conference is adapting to the COVID era with online talks, local meetups and “Twitter posters”.

This episode features friend of the podcast Mike Pointer, one of this year’s PopGroup organisers and host of the Abstract Bioscience podcast . PopGroup registration closes on 12th December:

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A genomic approach to oceanography

Can we really understand ancient shifts in oceanic currents by looking at the population genetics of migratory species? Find out in this episode, as Dr Jurjan van der Zee (University of Groningen) discusses his search for a warm-water corridor between the Atlantic and Indian oceans in the genomes of green turtles.

In this episode we explore the recent Heredity paper:“The population genomic structure of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) suggests a warm-water corridor for tropical marine fauna between the Atlantic and Indian oceans during the last interglacial”

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Resisting the Tilapia Lake Virus

Nile tilapia are the third most important farmed fish worldwide, but the emergence of the Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV) threatens its sustainable production. In this episode, Dr Agustin Barría (The Roslin Institute) discusses his recent collaboration, where they used a natural outbreak of TiLV to investigate the genetic architecture of disease resistance.

This episode discusses the recent Heredity paper: “A major quantitative trait locus affecting resistance to Tilapia lake virus in farmed Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)”

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Why's that fish transparent?

Red sea bream are an important fish in Japan, for both culinary and cultural reasons. But there’s a problem: transparent fish are appearing in fish farms! Join Dr Eitaro Sawayama (Nihon University) and find out how he uncovered the causative gene for this deformity, and what his work means for red sea bream aquaculture.

This episode discusses the recent Heredity paper: "Identification of the causative gene of a transparent phenotype of juvenile red sea bream Pagrus major"

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The return of wolves

After more than 150 years, wolves once again roam the Germany countryside! Of course, a lot has changed in that time. Join Anne Jarausch (Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt) as she discusses her recent work looking at the genetics of this ongoing, rapid and natural wolf recolonisation.

This episode discusses the recent Heredity paper: "How the west was won: genetic reconstruction of rapid wolf recolonization into Germany’s anthropogenic landscapes"

Prof Sam Banks with a brush-tailed rabbit-rat
New editor on the board: an interview with Prof. Sam Banks

Join us as we talk to the newest member of the Heredity editorial board: Prof. Sam Banks (Charles Darwin University). Discover his eclectic research tastes, hear about his recent Heredity paper on Australia’s threatened brush-tailed rabbit-rat, and be inspired by his passion for population genetics and ecology.

This episode discusses the recent Heredity paper: “Population genomics and conservation management of a declining tropical rodent”

Trilobium beetle
A pest with potential

A scourge to many in agriculture, flour beetles in the genus Tribolium may be the best model system you’re not using. Join PhD student Michael Pointer, Prof. Matthew Gage and Dr Lewis Spurgin (University of East Anglia) as they discuss the importance of Tribolium beetles across a remarkable range of research fields… and their great untapped potential as a model system in evolution and ecology. In this episode we explore the recent Heredity review: Tribolium beetles as a model system in evolution and ecology”

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Tales from the field

From Antarctic voyages to tropical cloud rainforests, join us as we revisit some of the best fieldwork experiences shared on the Heredity Podcast.

Milan Vrtilek and Pierre Chuard
Maternal matters

Join Dr Milan Vrtílek (Czech Academy of Sciences) and Dr Pierre Chuard (Bishop's University) as they venture into the world of maternal effects – a form of inheritance that goes beyond genes. We also discuss the importance of preregistering studies for robust, reproducible science and explore the often-overlooked value in finding negative results.

In this episode we explore the recent Heredity paper: “The role of maternal effects on offspring performance in familiar and novel environments”

Duminda Dissanayake in the field
Reversing Sex

Delve into the complex processes behind biological sex determination with Duminda Dissanayake and Clare Holleley (University of Canberra/CSIRO), and discover what happens when a developing lizard embryo receives conflicting signals.

In this episode we explore the recent Heredity paper: “High elevation increases the risk of Y chromosome loss in Alpine skink populations with sex reversal”

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When less is more: adaptive loss of function

There are many ways to break a gene, and that’s not always a bad thing. In this episode Grey Monroe and Pádraic Flood discuss their recent paper on the population genomics of adaptive loss of function, and recount the unexpected origins of their collaboration.

In this episode we explore the recent Heredity review article: “The population genomics of adaptive loss of function

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History according to mice

Etched into the genomes of the humble house mouse are clues to some of the most important migrations in human history. Join Prof. Hitoshi Suzuki and Dr Naoki Osada (Hokkaido University) as they explain how they used the Eurasian house mouse, Mus musculus, to trace the prehistorical movement of ancient human populations.

In this episode we explore the recent Heredity paper: “House mouse Mus musculus dispersal in East Eurasia inferred from 98 newly determined complete mitochondrial genome sequences”

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PopGroup 54 Special!

In this episode we explore the 54th Population Genetics Group Meeting with two of its organisers: Prof. Andrea Betancourt and Eve Taylor-Cox (University of Liverpool). We also hear from the winner of the best student talk: Gabriela Montejo-Kovacevic (University of Cambridge). Listen now to hear about great new research and the trials of hosting an online conference.

The evolution of the sexes

Why did different sexes evolve? It’s a question as old as biology, but Prof. Dr Elvira Hörandl (University of Göttingen), with the help of biochemist Dr Franz Hadacek, may have discovered an important piece of the answer.

In this episode we explore the recent Heredity review article: “Oxygen, life forms, and the evolution of sexes in multicellular eukaryotes

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Getting to know Heredity

In a bumper episode, filled with editorial expertise and top writing tips, discover why you should publish in Heredity in 2021!

The Best of 2020

Join host James Burgon as he shares his highlights from the past year of the Heredity Podcast.

Inspiring the Next Gen

When Jon Hale, a teacher at Beaulieu Convent School in Jersey, asked himselfhow do we inspire the next generation of scientists?”, he came up with an incredibly ambitious plan. It involved a Royal Society Partnership Grant, daffodils, and some of the most cutting-edge genome sequencing technology available. In this episode Jon tells us about his transformative school-based initiative, and two of his students, Daisy (17) and Caitlin (17), explain how they took ownership over their first real research project.

Associated article: Engaging the next generation of plant geneticists through sustained research: an overview of a post-16 project

Plant Quantitative Genetics: from Theory into Practice

In this episode we discuss the new Heredity Special Issue, Plant Quantitative Genetics: from Theory into Practice, with guest editors Dr Alison Bentley (CIMMYT) and Dr Lindsey Compton (University of Birmingham). Join us as we delve into the reviews, perspectives and research papers that explore the opportunities and applications of quantitative genetics in a range of plant species, and one paper that asks the question: how can we inspire the next generation of plant scientists?

Full special issue

Are all lab mice the same?

For over a century, inbred mice have been at the heart of genetics research. They are undoubtedly one of the most important models in all of biology. But are the mice from inbred lines really as genetically identical as often assumed? Find out in this episode as we hear from Dr Jobran Chebib and Prof. Peter Keightley (University of Edinburgh).

Associated article: Inbred lab mice are not isogenic: genetic variation within inbred strains used to infer the mutation rate per nucleotide site

The best student-led papers in Heredity

In September Heredity unveiled the winners of its first ever prize for best student-led paper. In this episode we explore this collection of outstanding research, with the help of Emily Baker, The Genetics Society’s postgraduate representative, the overall winner, Donald McKnight, and the Editor-in-Chief of Heredity, Prof. Barbara Mable. Tune in to hear some fascinating science and learn some top-tips for writing a prize-winning manuscript.

Explore the full Student Prize Longlist Collection and follow the links to watch the presentations of the three winners.

More than meets the eye

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.

Associated article: More than meets the eye: syntopic and morphologically similar mangrove killifish species show different mating systems and patterns of genetic structure along the Brazilian coast

The Nature of fear with Prof. Dan Blumstein

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.

Meet the monkey flower: an emerging model

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.

Associated article: Multi-level patterns of genetic structure and isolation by distance in the widespread plant Mimulus guttatus

Hidden in plain sight

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.

Associated article: Phylogeography of the iconic Australian red-tailed black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) and implications for its conservation

In search of sponges

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.

Associated article: Oceanographic features and limited dispersal shape the population genetic structure of the vase sponge Ircinia campana in the Greater Caribbean

Nature Blog post

Reversing speciation?

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.

Associated article: Recent introgression between Taiga Bean Goose and Tundra Bean Goose results in a largely homogeneous landscape of genetic differentiation

Alternative Entry Points

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.

Associated article: An alternative route of bacterial infection associated with a novel resistance locus in the Daphnia–Pasteuria host–parasite system

Inversions: an interview with Dr Rui Faria

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.

Resistance is female

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)

Targeted conservation of endangered chimps

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

Size matters for specialisation

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.

Associated article: Larger bacterial populations evolve heavier fitness trade-offs and undergo greater ecological specialization

Can mutational meltdown help us defeat COVID-19?

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

Drift and Selection in Paradise

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

Associated article: Rapid morphological divergence following a human-mediated introduction: the role of drift and directional selection

Human impacts: an interview with Dr Giorgio Bertorelle

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.

Fantastic frogs and where to find them

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.

Associated article: The evolution of polymorphism in the warning coloration of the Amazonian poison frog Adelphobates galactonotus

An engineer’s eye: an interview with Prof. Dario Grattapaglia

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!

Multiple perspectives: an interview with Dr Marc Stift

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.

Associated articles: Sibling competition does not magnify inbreeding depression in North American Arabidopsis lyrata

STRUCTURE is more robust than other clustering methods in simulated mixed-ploidy populations

Tristyly: A most complex marriage arrangement

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.

Associated article: Architectural constraints, male fertility variation and biased floral morph ratios in tristylous populations

The crop specialist: an interview with Dr Alison Bently

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).

Good dog, bad dog – is it all in the genes?

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

Nature Community Blog Post

PopGroup Conference Special

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.

Unravelling disease survival in farmed carp

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).

Associated article: Multiple interacting QTLs affect disease challenge survival in common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

The hybrid origins of asexual species

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.

Associated article: The role of hybridisation in the origin and evolutionary persistence of vertebrate parthenogens: a case study of Darevskia lizards

When species hybridise

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.

Associated article: Historical climate changes and hybridization shaped the evolution of Atlantic Forest spinetails (Aves: Furnariidae)

How rats invaded the Faroes (3 times)

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 to breed a climate resistant cow

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.

Associated paper: Genomic selection strategies for breeding adaptation and production in dairy cattle under climate change

Tips on collaborations and range expansions

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.

Associated paper: Demographic inferences after a range expansion can be biased: the test case of the blacktip reef shark

Scientific storytelling: an interview with Enrico Coen

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.

Learn more about the annual science communication workshop discussed in this episode

Associated articles:Homo geneticus The storytelling arms race: origin of human intelligence and the scientific mind

Genetics and evolution, a century of bias: an interview with Laurence Hurst

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

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.

Associated papers:
Complex fine-scale spatial genetic structure in Epidendrum rhopalostele: an epiphytic orchid.

Snails, supergenes and a question of colour (Special 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.

Associated papers:

Discrete or indiscrete? Redefining the colour polymorphism of the land snail Cepaea nemoralis

Recombination within the Cepaea nemoralis supergene is confounded by incomplete penetrance and epistasis

Patterns in the wing

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.

Associated article: The genetic architecture of adaptation: convergence and pleiotropy in Heliconius wing pattern evolution

Parallel flight paths

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.

Associated article: Convergent evolution on the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway genes EGLN1 and EPAS1 in high-altitude ducks

A mussel mosaic

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.

The master gland of domestication?

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’?

Associated paper: Changes in pituitary gene expression may underlie multiple domesticated traits in chickens

A mixing of wolves

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?

Associated Heredity paper: Natural re-colonization and admixture of wolves (Canis lupus) in the US Pacific Northwest: challenges for the protection and management of rare and endangered taxa.