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Jessica Abbott

Research interests

My main interest is in the evolutionary genetics of sex differences, especially sexually antagonistic genetic variation—in other words, when the same gene has opposite effects on the fitness of males and females. Sexually antagonistic genes and traits are interesting because they may hold the key to one of the long-standing paradoxes in evolutionary biology: the maintenance of standing genetic variation. When selection is strong and traits are heritable, it is expected that standing genetic variance for fitness should be rapidly depleted. Yet this is not what we see when we look at natural populations. Sexual antagonism may provide an answer since it means that the fitness of any given allele is context-dependent, preventing rapid depletion of genetic variance.

I have studied sexually antagonistic genetic variation in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) for several years, and will now be adding a new study organism to my lab: the hermaphroditic flatworm Macrostomum lignano. Although it may seem strange to think of hermaphroditic organisms as experiencing sexual antagonism, there are good theoretical reasons to believe that this is the case. In addition to continuing research on fruit flies, I am therefore also carrying out an extensive investigation of sexual antagonism in M. lignano.

For more details about these and other projects, please visit my personal website: jessicakabbott.com.

Short biography

I am originally from Canada, and started my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph. During my third undergraduate year I came to Lund as part of an international exchange program. I liked it so much that I wanted to stay longer, and ended up living there for 8 years while completing a Master’s and and a PhD on polymorphism in damselflies under the supervision of Erik Svensson. During that time I met my husband, got married, and we had our first child.

In 2007 we moved to Canada so that I could do a postdoc with Adam Chippindale at Queen's University in Kingston. We stayed there for just over two years, and our second child was born there. In November 2009 we moved back to Sweden so that I could join Ted Morrow's lab at Uppsala University. I worked there for two years, the second year as part of a collaboration with Klaus Reinhardt from the University of Tübingen.

And now, after four and a half years away, I’m back in Lund again!

Selected publications

Abbott, J. K. & Morrow, E. H. (2011), Obtaining snapshots of genetic variation using hemiclonal analysis, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26:359-368.

Abbott, J. K. (2011), Intralocus sexual conflict and sexually antagonistic genetic variation in hermaphroditic animals, Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278:161-169.

Abbott, J. K., Bedhomme, S., & Chippindale, A. K. (2010) , Sexual conflict in wing size and shape in Drosophila melanogaster, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23(9):1989-1997.

Abbott, J. K., Bensch, S., Gosden, T. & Svensson, E. I. (2008), Patterns of differentiation in a colour polymorphism and in neutral markers reveal rapid genetic changes in natural damselfly populations, Molecular Ecology, 17(6):1597-1604.

Svensson, E. I., Abbott, J. & Härdling, R. (2005), Female polymorphism, frequency-dependence and rapid evolutionary dynamics in natural populations, The American Naturalist 165(5):567-576. Rated “must read” on Faculty of 1000.


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Last modified 9 Oct 2012

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