Comparative genomics to gain insight into evolution and insecticide resistance in a major agricultural pest complex, the whitefly Bemisia tabaci

Professor Susan Seal (primary)
Agriculture Health and Environment
Natural Resources Institute - NRI
Yannick Wurm (secondary)
Organismal Biology
Queen Mary University of London & Alan Turing Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence


The whitefly Bemisia tabaci is one of world’s most damaging crop pest species. Intriguingly, what is considered morphologically to be a single species in fact represents a diverse species complex with its ~40 members differing substantially in their host range, invasiveness, susceptibilities to insecticides, and virus transmission properties. This project aims to understand how this can be by comparative bioinformatics analyses across recently-assembled draft genomes of populations differing in biological properties. Our findings will provide major insights assisting control of this invasive pest, as well as address key evolutionary questions regarding the genetics of adaptation and speciation.


Malka O, Feldmesser E, Santos-Garcia D, Sharon E, Krause Sakate R, Delatte H, vanBrunschot S, Mugerwa H, Seal S, Colvin J and Morin S. 2018. Species-complex diversification and host-plant associations in Bemisia tabaci: a plant-defense, detoxification perspective revealed by RNAseq analyses. Molecular Ecology DOI: 10.1111/mec.14865

Chi Y; Pan L-L; Bouvaine S; Fan Y-Y; Liu Y-Q; Liu S-S; Seal S; Wang X-W. 2020. Differential transmission of Sri Lankan cassava mosaic virus by three cryptic species of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci complex. Virology 540, 141-149

Favreau E, Martínez-Ruiz C, Santiago Rodrigues L, Hammond RL, Wurm Y. 2018. Genes and genomic processes underpinning the social lives of ants. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 25:83-90

Stolle E, Pracana R, Howard P, Paris CI, Brown SJ, Castillo-Carrillo CA, Rossiter SJ, Wurm Y. 2019. Degenerative expansion of a young supergene. Molecular Biology and Evolution 36: 553-561

López-Osorio F, Wurm Y. 2020. Healthy pollinators: evaluating pesticides with molecular medicine approaches. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 35: 380-383

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BioinformaticsGeneticsMolecular Biology