Molecular methods are powerful approches for the study of natural selection, and several of DeWoody’s students at Purdue have studied natural selection. One, Sara Turner, raised Atlantic salmon and compared levels of relatedness in the parents to determine if outbred parents have greater hatching success than closely related parents. She also looked at MHC variability and its potential impact on survivorship in light of evidence that Atlantic salmon choose their mates on the basis of MHC genotype. Sara found that MHC zygosity influences susceptibility to bacterial kidney disease, and that MHC genotype has little influence on early embryo survivorship.
Another student, Nick Marra, used RNA-seq to characterize the kangaroo rat transcriptome in an effort to identify genes involved in a) immunobiology and b) osmoregulation. Nick found signatures of selection on key genes families, including solute carrier proteins (SLCs).
Finally, Yanzhu (aka Bamboo) Ji studied how transposable elements impact avian genome sizes. This is important because the size of flying bird genomes is constrained by small cell sizes and high metabolic rates.
Turner S.M., Faisal M. & DeWoody J.A. (2007) Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genotype predicts susceptibility to Renibacterium salmoninarum in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.). Animal Genetics 38:517-519.
Turner S.M., Chaves-Campos J. & DeWoody J.A. (2009) Parental relatedness and major histocompatibility effects on early embryo survivorship in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Genetica 137:99-109.
Marra N.J., Eo S.H., Hale M.C., Waser P.M., & DeWoody J.A. (2012) A priori and a posteriori approaches for finding genes of evolutionary interest in non-model species: osmoregulatory genes in the kidney transcriptome of the desert rodent Dipodomys spectabilis (banner-tailed kangaroo rat). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D 2012:328-339.
Marra N.J., Romero A. & DeWoody J.A. (2014) Natural selection and the genetic basis of osmoregulation in Heteromyid rodents as revealed by RNA-seq. Molecular Ecology 23:2699–2711.
Ji Y. & DeWoody J.A. (2016) Relationships among powered flight, metabolic rate, body mass, genome size, and the retrotransposon complement of volant birds. Evolution Biology, in press.