Western University Biology - Amanda MoehringWestern Science

Research in the Moehring Lab

Flies in Vial

The Moehring lab studies the genetics of complex traits. Primarily, our research focuses on the genetic basis of variation in behaviour and the genetics of species isolation. We use the model system of Drosophila due to the extensive genetic and molecular tools this species offers, as well as the availability of species that can be hybridized in the laboratory. We use a mix of quantitative genetics, molecular genetics, behavioural assays and genomics in order to understand complex traits.

Genetic Variation and Behaviour:
Natural selection acts upon variation in a trait, making the identification of loci contributing to variation in traits critical to our understanding of evolutionary genetics. Animals exhibit a wide array of behaviours that are necessary for survival and reproduction, yet very little is known about the genetic basis of variation these behaviours. Our work focuses on identifying the genetic basis of variation in courtship and mating behaviour.

Genetic Basis of Species Isolation due to Behaviour:
One of the great unanswered questions in biology is how new species are formed and maintained. It is believed that selection initially acts upon standing genetic variation in mating behaviour within a continuous population, causing subpopulations to diverge and become individual species. Yet the genetic basis of variation in courtship and mating behaviour, either within or between species, remains almost entirely unknown. Our research aims to identify the genetic basis of behavioural isolation between species.

Genetic Basis of Species Isolation due to Hybrid Sterility:
In cases where species are able to hybridize, the resulting offspring are often sterile, yet the genetic basis of this mechanism (which prevents species from merging) is poorly understood. Using a combination of gene expression assays and quantitative genetic mapping, our research seeks to identify the genetic basis of hybrid sterility.