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Research interests

How are sexes maintained? Why do males of many species harm their mates? Why and how does aging occur? These questions are usually addressed by separate fields (Sex, Conflict & Aging), but I think of them as specific cases of the more general problem of how traits are expressed and how they evolve.

The research in the Priest lab lies at the interface of evolution, behavioural ecology, reproductive physiology and molecular genetics. Much of this work involves parental effects, which occur when the physiology and genotype of mothers influence trait expression in offspring. We have found that older mothers produce offspring with reduced longevity in fruit flies. We have found that maternal exposure to toxic compounds in male seminal fluid stimulates parental effects which improve the fitness of daughters. We have also found that mating increases the rate of genetic recombination in the maternal genome. Population genetic theory and life history models that we have constructed show that parental effects can alter the rate, direction, and endpoint of phenotypic evolution. These findings indicate that parental effects have an integral role in trait expression and evolution.

The current projects in the lab extend from our previous findings. We conduct empirical studies to understand how physiological responses to sexual behaviour in parents contribute to the rate of adaptation. We take advantage of the power of Drosophila genetics to understand how parental effects and recombination rate operate at a molecular level. To motivate and evaluate the empirical studies, we develop explicit cross-generational population genetic and demographic models. The ultimate goal of the work in the Priest lab is to resolve classic questions about aging, sexual behaviour and sex.

For potential students: We currently have funding for postgraduate studentships. Each of the projects involves empirical studies and modeling. If you work with me you will receive training in reproductive physiology, genetics and evolutionary theory. You will also play an important role in determining the direction of your project. Click on the title below for a description of the project.

Current Projects

  • Induced recombination in flies and honey bees
  • A systems biology approach to sexual conflict
  • Genetic basis of aging in Drosophila 

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Drosophila melanogaster Agriculture & Biology
fruit flies Agriculture & Biology
Genetic Recombination Medicine & Life Sciences
immunity Earth & Environmental Sciences
Mothers Medicine & Life Sciences
Diptera Medicine & Life Sciences
fruit Earth & Environmental Sciences
recombination Earth & Environmental Sciences

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Projects 2009 2013

European foul brood
bee diseases
pollinating insects

Development of Genomic Genotyping Resources

Priest, N. & Dorus, S.


Project: Research council

Research Output 2001 2016

6 Citations

Cold-seeking behaviour mitigates reproductive losses from fungal infection in Drosophila: Temperature preferences of infected fruit flies

Hunt, V., Zhong, W., Mcclure, C., Mlynski, D., Duxbury, E., Charnley, A. & Priest, N., 1 Jan 2016, In : Journal of Animal Ecology. 85, 1, p. 178-186 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
reproductive behavior
fruit flies
life history
5 Citations

The evolution of sex-specific dominance in response to sexually antagonistic selection

Spencer, H. G. & Priest, N. K., May 2016, In : The American Naturalist. 187, 5, p. 658-666 9 p., 10.1086/685827.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Mathematical models

A SNP-based method for determining the origin of MRSA isolates

Sciberras, J., 2015, 242 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Open Access
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism
Delivery of Health Care

Evolutionary Innovations and Dynamics in Wagner's Model of Genetic Regulatory Networks

Wang, Y., Dec 2015, (Unpublished) 174 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Genetic Models
Genetic Recombination
Gene Regulatory Networks

On the Multivariate Analysis of Animal Networks

Mlynski, D., 18 Sep 2015, (Unpublished) 222 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

multivariate analysis
social network
sampling bias