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Exploring Genomic Targets of Selection during Parallel Niche Expansions

Many species are introduced into new habitats, but only a small percentage survive and become harmful. This project will explore the genes that undergo natural selection after a species invades freshwater lakes and reservoirs from saline habitats asking: Are the same genes involved during repeated and independent invasions? The study uses as a model a small crustacean, the copepod Eurytemora affinis, that was introduced to freshwater systems in North America through ship traffic. The project (1) will identify genomic regions that are directly linked to freshwater adaptation and (2) analyze whether shared genetic mechanisms might be involved across independent invasions. The genes, or locations in the genome will be identified through quantitative trait loci (QTL)-mapping, using both standard and high-resolution approaches. These analyses will be performed for multiple independent invasions to determine whether the same genomic regions are involved.<br/><br/>Biological invasions have enormous impacts on ecosystem integrity, commerce, and public health, with economic costs of approximately $150 billion per year in the US alone. The Great Lakes are heavily affected, and serve as a major corridor for inland invasions. Knowing the genes and traits that undergo selection during invasions would provide insights into why only certain species invade, potentially providing the means to stop them. The project will also help train undergraduate and graduate students.

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