New paper: Butterflies don’t need bacteria for survival and development

Kruttika’s work testing the impact of butterfly caterpillar microbiomes on growth and survival is published! This was a major collaborative effort with Krushnamegh Kunte, and very new kind of work for our lab. The results were puzzling because unlike patterns from other insects, butterflies seem to be just fine without their bacteria. But in conjunction with Rittik and Ashwin’s recent results with dragonflies, it seems that we’ve uncovered one end of the spectrum of host-microbe interactions. The end that spells “meh!” rather than “I need you”. Here’s a cartoon summary of the work by Kruttika and Shreya. Also read a lay summary here; or read the paper for more details!


New paper: The little inhabitants of mighty dragon(flies)

Rittik Deb and Ashwin Nair’s paper on the gut bacterial communities of dragonflies is out! We sampled several species of dragonflies from different locations in India, and found that gut bacterial communities varied across host species, location, and season. For some of the dragonflies, we were also able to analyse gut contents, and found that these “generalist predators” eat quite different meals that probably end up introducing distinct bacteria in their guts. So, unlike in most other insects, dragonfly gut bacterial communities seem to be transient and are neutrally assembled (rather than host-selected). Read the paper for more details. Meanwhile, enjoy this beautiful summary of the paper by Pranjal Gupta!


Announcing the 2020 ICTS School on Population Genetics and Evolution

PopGen2020Kavita Jain and I are pleased to announce the fourth edition of the Bangalore School on Population genetics and Evolution. As always, we have an exciting speaker lineup, and we look forward to a group of enthusiastic participants. We invite applications from PhD students and postdocs (and exceptional MSc students) from biology, computer science, physics, or mathematics backgrounds. The key requirement is a strong interest in population genetics and/or evolutionary biology. Applications close 1 Oct 2019. For more information, see the school website.

2019 Conference season is upon us!

We are off to various conferences this year. Come listen to our talks, visit our posters, and talk science!

Aparna is already at Evolution 2019, to talk about the role of microbiomes during host adaptation in the Hamilton Award Symposium. We are rather proud that Aparna was selected to present as a finalist! She will also present a poster, and speak at the Story Collider event, Outside the Distribution. Do go talk to her!

In early July I will be at the Gordon Research Conference for Microbial Population Biology at Andover, NH, USA, presenting a poster on our beetle microbiome work. I’m super excited about this meeting, which is a great collection of microbially inclined folks.

Around the same time, Laasya will present a poster on her mistranslation work, at the EMBO|EMBL symposium on New approaches and concepts in microbiology in Heidelberg, Germany.

At the end of July, Parth and I will head to SMBE 2019 in Manchester, UK, presenting posters on the evolution and importance of translation and mistranslation, respectively. I am also organizing a symposium on the Causes of Parallel Molecular Evolution with Alex Couce. Come visit our posters, and listen to the amazing speakers in our symposium!

In August, Vrinda will be in Turku, Finland, speaking at ESEB 2019 about the population dynamics of laboratory-evolved beetles in new habitats. She has really fun data, so do check out her talk!

And finally, in the last week of August Laasya will present a poster and a talk at the FEMS summer school for postdocs: Bacterial robustness and mechanisms of death, in Split, Croatia.

New paper: Explaining population level variation in immune priming

Graphical Abstract_finalHere’s the latest from Imroze and Arun. A couple years ago we had found surprising levels of variability in immune memory (“priming”), across 10 wild-collected flour beetle populations (Khan et al 2016, Ecology and Evolution). In our new follow-up paper, we figured out what may explain this variation, by systematically analysing change in various fitness components in the populations, after priming. In a nutshell, it appears that priming is beneficial both for reproduction and for survival; but the relative benefits of priming may trade off. So, priming is stronger in beetle populations that are more susceptible to the pathogen; but it is weaker in populations that have a larger investment in fecundity after priming. Read the paper to find out more!