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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Molecular adaptations underpinning dietary specialisations in wild vertebrates

Project description

This project aims to uncover the molecular basis of dietary divergence and specialisation in mammals and birds. Vertebrates have diversified to occupy a range of dietary niches, ranging from herbivory to obligate carnivory, with numerous cases of parallel evolution. Yet the molecular adaptations that have allowed species to survive on particular types of foods without becoming unwell are poorly known. In this project we will focus on mammals and birds, building on our results from nectar-feeding bats that subsist predominantly on sugar-rich diets.  Because high sugar diets are linked to the development of diabetes and other metabolic diseases in humans, this project will also potentially inform studies of health.

The aim of this project will be to:

  • Identify molecular adaptations linked to nectar- and blood-feeding bats and birds
  • Determine the function consequences of these molecular adaptations

Facilities and training

This project will combine the generation and analysis of genetic data, with functional assays of protein function. The successful candidate should have a strong background in a relevant subject, such as evolutionary biology, bioinformatics or molecular biology, although there will be scope to adapt the project to fit the candidate’s skills and interests. Training will be provided in the necessary methods as required.

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