Chromosomal inversions

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Chromosomal inversions often underlie local adaptation and reproductive isolation and are widely believed to evolve via natural selection.Yet, in spite of a long history of study, the specific role chromosomal inversions play during adaptation remains unclear.

A key model authored by Kirkpatrick & Barton posits that inversions can be favored by selection if they create tightly-linked “cassettes” of locally-adapted alleles that act as single alleles of large effect and are shielded from maladaptive gene flow.

The core prediction of this model is that maladaptive gene flow generates a fitness differential between inverted and non-inverted haplotypes, which results in the inverted haplotype evolving to high frequency.

As part of my NSF-funded research at Duke University, I am working on an experimental test of this idea. Our two aims are:

  1. Create several novel chromosomal inversions using modern transgenic approaches.
  2. Perform an experimental test of the role of maladaptive gene flow in driving the adaptive evolution of these inversions.
Kieran Samuk
Postdoctoral Fellow

I study how recombination rate shapes evolutionary processes.