Department of Biology & Biochemistry

Successful workshop with evolutionary biologist from Mexican partner institution

Tue Apr 26 13:52:00 BST 2016

Dr Diego Cortez from the Centro de Ciencias Genomicas (CCG) at UNAM (Cuernavaca, Mexico) visited Bath to explore different aspects of the life history implications of sex roles, the evolution of sex chromosomes and diversity of sex determination mechanisms at a workshop on 19 April.

Sex roles and sex determination

Sex roles and sex ratios are some of the most exciting – and controversial - aspects of evolutionary biology. Males and females in many species display a variety of sex specific behaviours relating to courting and investment in parental care. But while marked differences between the sexes are seen in some species such as peacocks, in others, males and females are hard to tell apart.

Dr Cortez presented his results on the evolution of the Y chromosome in mammals, birds and reptiles. His results allowed to time the age of sex chromosomes and showed a general trend for Y chromosome gene loss and increasingly low expression patterns. Recent research by Dr Cortez suggests that some of the fundamental shifts in sex determination systems took place about 170,000 years ago.

evolution-workshopFollowing on this presentation, Professor Robert Kelsh gave an overview of the diversity of sex determination mechanisms in fish and the advantages of zebra fish as a model species.

Dr Araxi Urrutia and PhD student Katy Maher explored the molecular bases of behavioural sex differences using a comparative approach.

PhD student Cristina Carmona presented results on the implications of adult sex ratios across time during the breeding season on males and female nest desertion.

PhD student Josie Jackson took a comparative approach to understand the impact of mating systems on speciation.

Dr Nick Priest and PhD student Felipe Grajeda highlighted the important interplay of polyandry and sexual conflict with infection and nutrition.

Background

The workshop was organised by Professor Tamas Szekely, Dr Araxi Urrutia and Dr Diego Cortez and was funded by a Global Partnerships grant from the Office for Internationalisation at the University of Bath as part of a collaborative effort to further our understanding of the evolution of sex chromosomes and the ecological drivers for the establishment of genetic sex determination mechanisms.

The organisers were delighted to have high calibre presentations that are leading the further actions as part of this project: hosting a visiting student from the CCG at Bath, and organising the concluding workshop to be held in Mexico in the last week of August this year. In addition, we anticipate that our Accelerator Scheme-funded project will lead to new collaborations between evolutionary biologists based at Bath and UNAM.

Next steps

We will be hosting a visiting student from the CCG and we are organising the concluding workshop in Mexico in the last week of August. We anticipate that this project will lead to new collaborations between evolutionary biologists based at Bath and UNAM.