Non-genetic inheritance in adaptation
Trine Bilde, from Aarhus University in Denmark, will give a talk about "The role of non-genetic inheritance in adaptation – social spiders as a case study".
Adaptive responses to environmental change are expected to occur by selection on standing genetic variation, however, evolutionary models frequently lack explanatory power of phenotypic variance. Non-genetic mechanisms such as variation in the microbiome or epigenetic marks that contribute to phenotypic variation may facilitate adaptation to environmental change by supplying novel phenotypes for selection to act on. The transmission of these phenotypes across generations through non-genetic inheritance may contribute to rapid local adaptation, but the magnitude and relative importance of non-genetic inheritance in adaptation is ambiguous.
The social spider Stegodyphus dumicola occupies a broad climatic niche with a large temperature gradient but populations harbour extraordinarily low genetic variation, and virtually no genetic differentiation across large geographic distances, making this species useful for testing the hypothesis that non-genetic inheritance facilitates local adaptation. I will present ongoing interdisciplinary work in our group on investigating the role and mechanisms of non-genetic inheritance (variation in the microbiome and methylation patterns) in temperature adaptation.