Investigation of the Evolution of Pigment-Producing Genes of Theridiidae
The molecular basis of adaptation and differentiation is one of the most important, yet least understood, areas in evolutionary biology. Color polymorphic systems are a valuable, visual tool for such studies, allowing allele numbers, identities, and population frequencies to be estimated directly. In the spider family Theridiidae, discernible systems of discrete color polymorphisms have evolved independently across multiple taxa (Cotoras et al, 2017). Notably, both the Hawaiian Happy Face spider, Theridion grallator, and its fairly distant Californian relative Theridion californicum, have convergently evolved color polymorphism. For these spiders, apostatic selection maintains the spectrum of color morphs that are found within a population. This color mechanism provides an ideal system for contrasting the operation of different avenues of selection on the same color pathway between spiders within the same family, and potentially also identifying candidate genes for color expression in these spiders. This study will provide insights into the genomic underpinnings of color and natural selection under contrasting selective regimes.
Message to Sponsor
- Major: Integrative Biology
- Sponsor: Pergo Fund
- Mentor: Rosemary Gillespie