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Dimensions US-BIOTA-São Paulo: more to the blow fly than meets the eye: understanding evolutionary and genetic origins of diverse trophic specializations

Grant number: 20/05636-4
Support type:BIOTA-FAPESP Program - Thematic Grants
Duration: January 01, 2021 - December 31, 2025
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Zoology
Cooperation agreement: NSF - Dimensions of Biodiversity and BIOTA
Principal researcher:Tatiana Teixeira Torres
Grantee:Tatiana Teixeira Torres
Principal researcher abroad: Brian Michael Wiegmann
Institution abroad: North Carolina State University (NC State), United States
Home Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Pesquisadores principais:
Patricia Jacqueline Thyssen
Assoc. researchers: Aram Mikaelyan ; David W Watson ; Federico David Brown Almeida ; Kelly Ann Meiklejohn ; Maxwell John Scott ; Silvio Shigueo Nihei ; Sophie Hokulani Véronique Jessica Tandonnet
Associated scholarship(s):21/10022-8 - Evolve and resequencing to understand blowfly trophic specialization, BP.DD
21/01641-6 - Natural Selection on Blowfly Genomes and Transcriptomes, BP.MS


Flies are diverse models for studying the evolution of the parasitic habit. With 1,256 described species, blow flies (family Calliphoridae) are an ideal candidate for comparative study of the genetic and behavioral determinants of feeding adaptations. Based on feeding habits of their larvae, blow flies are classified as either: 1) necrosaprophagous, which feed on decomposing tissue; 2) facultative ectoparasites, which feed on dead organic matter, or infest necrotic tissues of living vertebrates; and 3) obligate parasites, which feed only on the living tissues of their hosts. The origin and evolutionary history of these diverse specialized feeding habits in Calliphoridae are still vastly understudied, and are limited by a lack of phylogenetic, genetic and ecological information. With this project, an established team of evolutionary, ecological and genomic scientists will collaboratively investigate the causes and consequences of trophic specialization, as a driver of species diversity across three integrated dimensions of blow fly research: 1) phylogenetic: reconstructing the evolutionary history of blow flies and mapping feeding habit transitions across the family; 2) genetic/genomic: identifying genes associated with specialized feeding habits, and assessing whether they are consistent at the family, population and strain level; and 3) functional: quantifying the impact of gene suppression (using CRISPR-Cas9) on food source preference, and investigating the role of the gut microbiome in mediating diet adaptations and maintaining diverse biotic interactions. Integration of research findings from across our laboratories studying multiple lineages of blow flies, will allow us to address key questions surrounding the origin and maintenance of diverse trophic specializations and their impact on lineage diversity. (AU)

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