The Whiteman Laboratory is part of the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. We study the evolutionary, functional and genetic basis of adaptations involved in the evolution of parasitism. We primarily use a model system in involving a parasitic fly genus nested in the Drosophila lineage (Scaptomyza flava) and the genetic model plant Arabidopsis thaliana as a host. These two species interact in nature, both in Europe and North America and both lineages have substantial genomic resources and molecular tools available.
Why do we study the evolution of parasitism? Parasites are incredibly successful ecologically and evolutionarily. Parasites also cause enormous harm to crops, livestock and companion animals, wildlife and humans. Understanding the genetic basis of adaptations that parasites use to colonize and develop within their hosts gives us insight into why they are so successful. It also helps identify potential targets for control, particularly those traits that are necessary for plant parasitism. Other projects in the lab focus on the evolutionary history of the community of insects that attack the creosote plant and the co-evolutionary genomics of hummingbird bill and nectar plant floral morphology.