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Dr Simon Henry Martin

Dr Simon Henry Martin

Research Fellow, St John's College Cambridge (William Bateson Fellowship)

Room S22
Office Phone: 01223 (3)36602


2014-Present: Research Fellow, St John's College, Cambridge

2011-2014: PhD, University of Cambridge

2008-2010: MSc Genetics, University of Pretoria, South Africa

2004-2007: BSc Genetics (Hons), University of Pretoria, South Africa

Research Interests

I am interested in how natural populations evolve and adapt at the genomic level. I am particularly interested in the somewhat mysterious process of speciation, through which distinct clusters of genotypes become established, and persist over time. This is the fundamental process that underlies the diversity of life.

What is the role of natural selection in shaping the diversity of nature? When sexual species hybridise and share genetic matarial, why don't they eventually collapse into a single species? What are the consequences of the exchange of genetic material between species, and how often is this process beneficial? These are some of the questions I think about and work on.

Most of my work focusses on the diverse and beautiful Heliconius butterflies, a group well known among biologists for their mimetic adaptations, geographic races with different wing patterns, and multiple species that hybridise in the wild.

I have also begun working on a second butterfly system, the Danaus chrysippus species complex, an African butterfly clade that consists of a number of "semi-species", which appear to be kept apart by geography, selection and a strange interaction between genome structure and male-killing bacteria. There are far more questions than answers in this system.

My overall goal is to better our understanding of speciation and adpatation by testing hypotheses about the mechanics of these processes. I use genome sequencing of natural populations combined with both descriptive and model-based computational approaches, most of which are rooted in population-genetic theory. I am interested in developing creative ways of working with genomic data, so that we can get the most out of this tremendous resource.

Key Publications

Exploring Evolutionary Relationships Across the Genome Using Topology Weighting. Martin SH, Van Belleghem SM. 2017 Genetics 206:429-438

Complex modular architecture around a simple toolkit of wing pattern genes. Van Belleghem SM, Rastas P, Papanicolaou A, Martin SH, Arias CF, Supple MA, Hanly JJ, Mallet J, Lewis JJ, Hines HM, et al. 2017.  Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1:52

Genome-wide evidence for speciation with gene flow in Heliconius butterflies. Martin SH, Dasmahapatra KK, Nadeau NJ, Salazar C, Walters JR, Simpson F, Blaxter M, Manica A, Mallet J, Jiggins CD. 2013.  Genome Res. 23:1817–1828


Other Publications

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