Evolutionary Biology (Grath)

Department / Institute
Faculty of Biology
Subject area
Evolutionary Biology
Project title
O brother, where art thou? - Modelling the evolution of parthenogenesis
Name of supervisor
Dr. Sonja Grath
Number of open positions
Language requirements
Proficiency in English
Academic requirements
4-year Bachelor's plus Master's Degree; at the time of application, the last final exam should have taken place during the past 4 years.
Project time plan
Full Doctoral Study Model: 36 or 48 months

Project description

We are generally interested in the evolution of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that determine sex-specific gene regulation. Animals display a wide variety of reproductive modes. While sexual reproduction is widespread and well-known, with this project, we aim to better understand the evolution of reproductive modes where males are actually absent. We will use mathematical modelling to understand different forms of parthenogenesis. Under which circumstances can this form of reproduction evolve and be maintained? In arthropods, parthenogenesis can be induced by endosymbionts such as Wolbachia that can perform different reproductive manipulations on its hosts. One example is cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) where Wolbachia manipulates the sperm of infected males. When mated with an uninfected female, or a female harboring a different and incompatible strain of Wolbachia, the manipulated sperm leads to partial or even complete incompatibility with the female's eggs and induces lethality of the offspring by disrupting the development of the embryo. If the female however does carry the same Wolbachia infection and Wolbachia is also present in her eggs, the manipulation can be rescued, allowing for viable offspring to be produced. Previously, we developed a mathematical model to study under which circumstances CI can spread between and maintained in populations of oak gallwasps. In this project, we now want to extend and generalize this model to additional species, parameters and reproductive manipulations.

Given a sincere interest in molecular and evolutionary mechanisms, the project is also well suited for graduates from disciplines outside biology, such as mathematics, physics or computer science. Just get in contact with the principal investigator in case you have any questions.

Contact information:

If you are interested in this project, contact me to grath@bio.lmu.de


van der Kooi, C. J., Matthey-Doret, C., Schwander, T. (2017). Evolution and comparative ecology of parthenogenesis in haplodiploid arthropods. Evolution Letters 1-6: 304–316. https://doi.org/10.1002/evl3.30

Werren, J. H., Baldo, L., & Clark, M. E. (2008). Wolbachia: master manipulators of invertebrate biology. Nat Rev Microbiol, 6(10), 741-751. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro1969

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