How do genomes vary, and how does this variation influence animal diversity? I am attempting to address these questions using the charismatic Heliconius butterflies. There are tens of Heliconius species distributed across South and Central America, most with tens of different subspecies. This species diversity is generated and maintained by variation in the genomes of these butterflies. Using high throughput sequencing, it is now possible to assemble and compare whole genomes of multiple organisms and search for large scale variations in these genomes. I am using high throughput sequencing to search for variations in recombination rate and for the presence of chromosomal inversions across multiple Heliconius genomes, in an attempt to provide an explanatory mechanism for the diversity of Heliconius species. In the process, I am developing several novel methods for the analysis of inversions and recombinations using next generation sequencing, based on previous work on RAD Sequencing in butterflies, moths, salmon, sturgeon and snails.
Davey J.W., Cezard T., Fuentes-Utrilla P., Eland C., Gharbi K., Blaxter M.L. (2012) Special features of RAD Sequencing data: implications for genotyping. Molecular Ecology 12(11):3151-3164.
Dasmahapatra K.K., Walters J.R., Briscoe A.D., Davey J.W., Whibley A., Nadeau N.J., Zimin A.V., Hughes D.S., Ferguson L.C. et al. Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. Nature 487(7405):94-98.
Davey J.W., Hohenlohe P.A., Etter P.D., Boone J.Q., Catchen J.M., Blaxter M.L. (2011) Genome-wide genetic marker discovery and genotyping using next-generation sequencing. Nature Reviews Genetics 12(7):499-510.
Baxter S.W., Davey J.W., Johnston J.S., Shelton A.M., Heckel D.G., Jiggins C.D., Blaxter M.L. (2011) Linkage mapping and comparative genomics using next-generation RAD sequencing of a non-model organism. PLoS One 6(4):e19315.