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FLATT Thomas

  • Department of Biology, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Adaptation, Evo-Devo, Experimental Evolution, Genome Evolution, Genotype-Phenotype, Life History, Molecular Evolution, Phenotypic Plasticity, Population Genetics / Genomics, Quantitative Genetics
  • recommender

Recommendations:  3

Reviews:  0

Educational and work
Thomas Flatt is Full Professor of Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Biology at the University of Fribourg. Prior to his appointment in Fribourg in 2017, he was a tenured group leader at the Institute of Population Genetics at the Vetmeduni Vienna, a faculty member of the Vienna Graduate School of Population Genetics, and a Swiss National Science Foundation Professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne. Flatt received his M.Sc. in population biology from the University of Basel in 1999 and his Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Fribourg. After his Ph.D. he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Brown University (Providence, USA). In 2011 he co-edited a book on the genetic and physiological mechanisms of life-history evolution (Oxford University Press). He has served on the editorial boards of several journals including Journal of Evolutionary Biology and Evolution and is a contributing member of the Faculty of 1000. In 2012 he was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin; between 2018 and 2021 he is holding a DFG Mercator Fellowship to collaborate with evolutionary biologists at the University of Münster. Since March 2018 he is also serving as the head of the CUSO inter-university doctoral program in ecology and evolution. Flatt's main research interests are the genomic basis of adaptation, life-history evolution and the evolution of aging.

Recommendations:  3

19 Dec 2016
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Geographic body size variation in the periodical cicadas Magicicada: implications for life cycle divergence and local adaptation

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Megacicadas show a temperature-mediated converse Bergmann cline in body size (larger in the warmer south) but no body size difference between 13- and 17-year species pairs

Periodical cicadas are a very prominent insect group in North America that are known for their large size, good looks, and loud sounds. However, they are probably known best to evolutionary ecologists because of their long juvenile periods of 13 or 17 years (prime numbers!), which they spend in the ground. Multiple related species living in the same area are often coordinated in emerging as adults during the same year, thereby presumably swamping any predators specialized on eating them.
Life history differences between the 13yr and 17yr cicadas are a particular focus of interest. For example, as it takes time to grow large, one would expect 17yr cicadas to be larger than 13yr cicadas on average. Koyama et al. [1] investigate geographic body size clines for 7 species of periodical cicadas in eastern North America, whose phylogenetic relationships are resolved, in a life history context, using an impressively large number of populations (Fig. 1 of [1]). The authors report generally female-biased sexual body size dimorphism (SSD), and (however not for all species) a positive relationship of body size with habitat annual mean temperature taken from weather data and a negative correlation with latitude (Fig. 3 of [1]). The latter is consistent with a converse Bergmann cline. Crucially, body size of two at least partly sympatric 13y & 17y sister species pairs did not differ (by much), contrary to expectation because the 17y species have more time to grow larger. 13y cicadas must therefore generally grow faster (or 17y cicadas slower) to in the end acquire the same (optimal?) body size. The phylogenetically oldest 13y cicada species, however, is larger, suggesting that selection for large (optimal?) body size has relaxed over evolutionary time, for unknown reasons (about which the authors speculate). A mechanistic explanation for this phenomenon is suggested based on the hypothesis that 17y cicadas simply arrest or slow down growth early during their juvenile stage to delay emergence for 4 further years (Fig. 2 of [1]).
We think this is an impressive data set, and the life history question addressed in this prominent insect taxon should appeal to readers generally interested in whole-organism evolution despite being largely descriptive.

Reference

[1] Koyama T, Ito H, Kakishima S, Yoshimura J, Cooley JR, Simon C, Sota T. 2015. Geographic body size variation in the periodical cicadas Magicicada: implications for life cycle divergence and local adaptation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28:1270-1277. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12653

13 Dec 2016
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Structural genomic changes underlie alternative reproductive strategies in the ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

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Supergene Control of a Reproductive Polymorphism

Two back-to-back papers published earlier this year in Nature Genetics provide compelling evidence for the control of a male reproductive polymorphism in a wading bird by a "supergene", a cluster of tightly linked genes [1-2]. The bird in question, the ruff (Philomachus pugnax), has a rather unusual reproductive system that consists of three distinct types of males ("reproductive morphs"): aggressive "independents" who represent the majority of males; a smaller fraction of non-territorial "satellites" who are submissive towards "independents"; and "faeders" who mimic females and are rare. Previous work has shown that the male morphs differ in major aspects of mating and aggression behavior, plumage coloration and body size, and that – intriguingly – this complex multi-trait polymorphism is apparently controlled by a single autosomal Mendelian locus with three alleles [3]. To uncover the genetic control of this polymorphism two independent teams, led by Terry Burke [1] and Leif Andersson [2], have set out to analyze the genomes of male ruffs. Using a combination of genomics and genetics, both groups managed to pin down the supergene locus and map it to a non-recombining, 4.5 Mb large inversion which arose 3.8 million years ago. While "independents" are homozygous for the ancestral uninverted sequence, "satellites" and "faeders" carry evolutionarily divergent, dominant alternative haplotypes of the inversion. Thus, as in several other notable cases, for example the supergene control of disassortative mating, aggressiveness and plumage color in white-throated sparrows [4], of mimicry in Heliconius and Papilio butterflies [5-6], or of social structure in ants [7], an inversion – behaving as a single "locus" – underpins the mechanistic basis of the supergene. More generally, and beyond inversions, a growing number of studies now shows that selection can favor the evolution of suppressed recombination, thereby leading to the emergence of clusters of tightly linked loci which can then control – presumably due to polygenic gene action – a suite of complex phenotypes [8-10]. A largely unresolved question in this field concerns the identity of the causative alleles and loci within a given supergene. Recent progress on this question has been made for example in Papilio polytes butterflies where a mimicry supergene has been found to involve – surprisingly – only a single but large gene: multiple mimicry alleles in the doublesex gene are maintained in strong linkage disequilibrium via an inversion. It will clearly be of great interest to see future examples of such a fine-scale genetic dissection of supergenes. In conclusion, we were impressed by the data and analyses of Küpper et al. [1] and Lamichhaney et al. [2]: both papers beautifully illustrate how genomics and evolutionary ecology can be combined to make new, exciting discoveries. Both papers will appeal to readers with an interest in supergenes, inversions, the interplay of selection and recombination, or the genetic control of complex phenotypes.

References

[1] Küpper C, Stocks M, Risse JE, dos Remedios N, Farrell LL, McRae SB, Morgan TC, Karlionova N, Pinchuk P, Verkuil YI, et al. 2016. A supergene determines highly divergent male reproductive morphs in the ruff. Nature Genetics 48:79-83. doi: 10.1038/ng.3443

[2] Lamichhaney S, Fan G, Widemo F, Gunnarsson U, Thalmann DS, Hoeppner MP, Kerje S, Gustafson U, Shi C, Zhang H, et al. 2016. Structural genomic changes underlie alternative reproductive strategies in the ruff (Philomachus pugnax). Nature Genetics 48:84-88. doi: 10.1038/ng.3430

[3] Lank DB, Smith CM, Hanotte O, Burke T, Cooke F. 1995. Genetic polymorphism for alternative mating behaviour in lekking male ruff Philomachus pugnax. Nature 378:59-62. doi: 10.1038/378059a0

[4] Tuttle Elaina M, Bergland Alan O, Korody Marisa L, Brewer Michael S, Newhouse Daniel J, Minx P, Stager M, Betuel A, Cheviron Zachary A, Warren Wesley C, et al. 2016. Divergence and Functional Degradation of a Sex Chromosome-like Supergene. Current Biology 26:344-350. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.11.069

[5] Joron M, Frezal L, Jones RT, Chamberlain NL, Lee SF, Haag CR, Whibley A, Becuwe M, Baxter SW, Ferguson L, et al. 2011. Chromosomal rearrangements maintain a polymorphic supergene controlling butterfly mimicry. Nature 477:203-206. doi: 10.1038/nature10341

[6] Kunte K, Zhang W, Tenger-Trolander A, Palmer DH, Martin A, Reed RD, Mullen SP, Kronforst MR. 2014. doublesex is a mimicry supergene. Nature 507:229-232. doi: 10.1038/nature13112

[7] Wang J, Wurm Y, Nipitwattanaphon M, Riba-Grognuz O, Huang Y-C, Shoemaker D, Keller L. 2013. A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants. Nature 493:664-668. doi: 10.1038/nature11832

[8] Thompson MJ, Jiggins CD. 2014. Supergenes and their role in evolution. Heredity 113:1-8. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2014.20

[9] Schwander T, Libbrecht R, Keller L. 2014. Supergenes and Complex Phenotypes. Current Biology 24:R288-R294. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.056

[10] Charlesworth D. 2015. The status of supergenes in the 21st century: recombination suppression in Batesian mimicry and sex chromosomes and other complex adaptations. Evolutionary Applications 9:74-90. doi: 10.1111/eva.12291

13 Dec 2016
article picture
POSTPRINT

A supergene determines highly divergent male reproductive morphs in the ruff

Recommended by and

Supergene Control of a Reproductive Polymorphism

Two back-to-back papers published earlier this year in Nature Genetics provide compelling evidence for the control of a male reproductive polymorphism in a wading bird by a "supergene", a cluster of tightly linked genes [1-2]. The bird in question, the ruff (Philomachus pugnax), has a rather unusual reproductive system that consists of three distinct types of males ("reproductive morphs"): aggressive "independents" who represent the majority of males; a smaller fraction of non-territorial "satellites" who are submissive towards "independents"; and "faeders" who mimic females and are rare. Previous work has shown that the male morphs differ in major aspects of mating and aggression behavior, plumage coloration and body size, and that – intriguingly – this complex multi-trait polymorphism is apparently controlled by a single autosomal Mendelian locus with three alleles [3]. To uncover the genetic control of this polymorphism two independent teams, led by Terry Burke [1] and Leif Andersson [2], have set out to analyze the genomes of male ruffs. Using a combination of genomics and genetics, both groups managed to pin down the supergene locus and map it to a non-recombining, 4.5 Mb large inversion which arose 3.8 million years ago. While "independents" are homozygous for the ancestral uninverted sequence, "satellites" and "faeders" carry evolutionarily divergent, dominant alternative haplotypes of the inversion. Thus, as in several other notable cases, for example the supergene control of disassortative mating, aggressiveness and plumage color in white-throated sparrows [4], of mimicry in Heliconius and Papilio butterflies [5-6], or of social structure in ants [7], an inversion – behaving as a single "locus" – underpins the mechanistic basis of the supergene. More generally, and beyond inversions, a growing number of studies now shows that selection can favor the evolution of suppressed recombination, thereby leading to the emergence of clusters of tightly linked loci which can then control – presumably due to polygenic gene action – a suite of complex phenotypes [8-10]. A largely unresolved question in this field concerns the identity of the causative alleles and loci within a given supergene. Recent progress on this question has been made for example in Papilio polytes butterflies where a mimicry supergene has been found to involve – surprisingly – only a single but large gene: multiple mimicry alleles in the doublesex gene are maintained in strong linkage disequilibrium via an inversion. It will clearly be of great interest to see future examples of such a fine-scale genetic dissection of supergenes. In conclusion, we were impressed by the data and analyses of Küpper et al. [1] and Lamichhaney et al. [2]: both papers beautifully illustrate how genomics and evolutionary ecology can be combined to make new, exciting discoveries. Both papers will appeal to readers with an interest in supergenes, inversions, the interplay of selection and recombination, or the genetic control of complex phenotypes.

References

[1] Küpper C, Stocks M, Risse JE, dos Remedios N, Farrell LL, McRae SB, Morgan TC, Karlionova N, Pinchuk P, Verkuil YI, et al. 2016. A supergene determines highly divergent male reproductive morphs in the ruff. Nature Genetics 48:79-83. doi: 10.1038/ng.3443

[2] Lamichhaney S, Fan G, Widemo F, Gunnarsson U, Thalmann DS, Hoeppner MP, Kerje S, Gustafson U, Shi C, Zhang H, et al. 2016. Structural genomic changes underlie alternative reproductive strategies in the ruff (Philomachus pugnax). Nature Genetics 48:84-88. doi: 10.1038/ng.3430

[3] Lank DB, Smith CM, Hanotte O, Burke T, Cooke F. 1995. Genetic polymorphism for alternative mating behaviour in lekking male ruff Philomachus pugnax. Nature 378:59-62. doi: 10.1038/378059a0

[4] Tuttle Elaina M, Bergland Alan O, Korody Marisa L, Brewer Michael S, Newhouse Daniel J, Minx P, Stager M, Betuel A, Cheviron Zachary A, Warren Wesley C, et al. 2016. Divergence and Functional Degradation of a Sex Chromosome-like Supergene. Current Biology 26:344-350. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.11.069

[5] Joron M, Frezal L, Jones RT, Chamberlain NL, Lee SF, Haag CR, Whibley A, Becuwe M, Baxter SW, Ferguson L, et al. 2011. Chromosomal rearrangements maintain a polymorphic supergene controlling butterfly mimicry. Nature 477:203-206. doi: 10.1038/nature10341

[6] Kunte K, Zhang W, Tenger-Trolander A, Palmer DH, Martin A, Reed RD, Mullen SP, Kronforst MR. 2014. doublesex is a mimicry supergene. Nature 507:229-232. doi: 10.1038/nature13112

[7] Wang J, Wurm Y, Nipitwattanaphon M, Riba-Grognuz O, Huang Y-C, Shoemaker D, Keller L. 2013. A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants. Nature 493:664-668. doi: 10.1038/nature11832

[8] Thompson MJ, Jiggins CD. 2014. Supergenes and their role in evolution. Heredity 113:1-8. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2014.20

[9] Schwander T, Libbrecht R, Keller L. 2014. Supergenes and Complex Phenotypes. Current Biology 24:R288-R294. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.056

[10] Charlesworth D. 2015. The status of supergenes in the 21st century: recombination suppression in Batesian mimicry and sex chromosomes and other complex adaptations. Evolutionary Applications 9:74-90. doi: 10.1111/eva.12291

avatar

FLATT Thomas

  • Department of Biology, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Adaptation, Evo-Devo, Experimental Evolution, Genome Evolution, Genotype-Phenotype, Life History, Molecular Evolution, Phenotypic Plasticity, Population Genetics / Genomics, Quantitative Genetics
  • recommender

Recommendations:  3

Reviews:  0

Educational and work
Thomas Flatt is Full Professor of Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Biology at the University of Fribourg. Prior to his appointment in Fribourg in 2017, he was a tenured group leader at the Institute of Population Genetics at the Vetmeduni Vienna, a faculty member of the Vienna Graduate School of Population Genetics, and a Swiss National Science Foundation Professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne. Flatt received his M.Sc. in population biology from the University of Basel in 1999 and his Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Fribourg. After his Ph.D. he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Brown University (Providence, USA). In 2011 he co-edited a book on the genetic and physiological mechanisms of life-history evolution (Oxford University Press). He has served on the editorial boards of several journals including Journal of Evolutionary Biology and Evolution and is a contributing member of the Faculty of 1000. In 2012 he was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin; between 2018 and 2021 he is holding a DFG Mercator Fellowship to collaborate with evolutionary biologists at the University of Münster. Since March 2018 he is also serving as the head of the CUSO inter-university doctoral program in ecology and evolution. Flatt's main research interests are the genomic basis of adaptation, life-history evolution and the evolution of aging.