Adaptation of rotifers to impredictable habitats

PhD fellowship position (ICBiBE, University of Valencia, Spain)

The Evolutionary Ecology laboratory at the Cavanilles Institute of
Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology (ICBiBE; (ecoloevol@ICBiBE)
investigates on zooplankters in fluctuating environments. The Spanish
Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) has open a call to
grant a fellowship associated to the ongoing project ‘Environmental
unpredictability and counteracting effects on sex response in rotifers
(CGL2015-65422-P)’, leaded by MarÃa Jose Carmona ( and
Manuel Serra ( ).

Bet hedging (i.e. risk-spreading strategies) is one of the expected
adaptive responses when fluctuations are unpredictable. However, by
hedging their bets, organisms incurs in important costs. The project
uses a set of rotifer (Brachionus plicatilis) populations whose
habitats embraces a range of environmental unpredictability. The
project aims to test whether populations adapt locally to the level of
environmental unpredictability by evolving diverging strategies for
sexual reproduction. A negative relationship between sexual
reproduction ratio and environmental unpredictability is hypothesized
and will be tested. Additionally, successful sex in facultative sexuals
needs population synchronization, which can be improved by quorum
sensing. We will test hypotheses on the mechanisms of quorum sensing.
As sex synchronization opposes to bet hedging, we will test whether a
negative relationship between quorum sensing and environmental
unpredictability exists. It is known that some facultative sexual
rotifers do not respond to sex induction during a few generations after
leaving diapause. This feature is regarded as adaptive for a clone
proliferation. We will investigate if such sex-blocking effect occurs
in B. plicatilis. However, sex-blocking effect may cause fail to
produce diapausing stages if the growing season ends shortly after
leaving diapause, a likely event if the growing season length varies
much and cannot be predicted. Accordingly, we will test the expectation
that sex-blocking effect decreases with environmental unpredictability.
Additionally, we hypothesize that an increase in the responsiveness to
sex induction after leaving diapause is correlated with the expression
of genes associated to meiosis and meiosis regulation, and we will
investigate this correlation using transcriptomics.

The fellowship covers up to four years. Candidates on performing a Ph.
D. thesis associated to the ongoing project must have a strong
background in population ecology and evolutionary biology. Skills in
statistics, population genetics, molecular biology and computer
programming are welcome.

Eligible applicants must have been admitted in the Doctoral Program in
Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Valencia for
2016-17 academic year (doctorado-biodiver-biol-evol).

Application for the fellowship available on MINECO website from
September 13 to September 27, 2016. For more information visit this
link: call)

Mª José Carmona <>

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