Understanding the effects of environmental changes on social insects using big data evolutionary genomics.

Yannick Wurm (primary)
Organismal Biology
Queen Mary University of London & Alan Turing Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence
Seirian Sumner (secondary)


Animals are constantly exposed to environmental challenges. These comes from conspecifics, for example a change in social hierarchy through the death or birth of dominant individuals, or from external forces, for example a changing climate or pesticide exposure. Theory is insufficient. We will harness recently available technologies to provide detailed novel insight on the molecular mechanisms and constraints underpinning responses to environmental changes. Our results will have major implications on understanding short- and long-term responses to environmental changes, including for the evolution of new complex phenotypes.


1 Wang, Wurm et al (2013) A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants. Nature.
2 Stolle et al (2019). Degenerative expansion of a young supergene. Molecular Biology and Evolution.
3 Colgan et al (2019) Caste- and pesticide-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticide exposure on gene expression in bumblebees. Molecular Ecology.
4 Kennedy et al (2018) Deconstructing superorganisms and societies to address big questions in biology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution
5 Ellegren (2014). Genome sequencing and population genomics in non-model organisms. Trends in Genetics

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BioinformaticsEngineeringGeneticsImage ProcessingMathematics / StatisticsMolecular BiologySimulation / Modelling