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B.Sc. Biology, Leibniz University Hannover (Germany)
M.Sc. Animal Biology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (Germany)
Evolutionary genetics of pheromonal communication in mouse lemurs: PhD project at the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hannover (Germany), in collaboration with the Evolutionary Genetics Group, University of Cambridge (UK). Funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.
Intraspecific pheromonal communication is found in a variety of animals including mammals but not yet fully understood. Most mammals possess a vomeronasal organ (VNO) which is specialized for pheromone detection, but non-functional in humans. Whereas in rodents many important insights into the role of the VNO in pheromone function have been elucidated, data on the possible evolutionary role of pheromones in primates are limited. Mouse lemurs are an ideal model system to study pheromonal communication in primates, because the important roles of odours in the social system of these nocturnal strepsirrhines are well known. My study aims to identify the genes for pheromonal receptors in the VNO of mouse lemurs as a model for the ancestral primate condition and to confirm their expression. The variation of these genes within and between mouse lemur populations as well as between different species will be analysed in order to determine the level of selection on these genes and their role of these pheromone receptor genes in sexual selection, population divergence and speciation processes.