The Whiteman Laboratory is part of the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. We study the mechanistic basis of adaptations involved in the evolution of parasitism and host resistance. We use tools from biochemistry, experimental evolution, genetics and genomics, molecular biology, and neuroscience to study these adaptations. We hope to unravel the mystery of how free-living organisms evolve to become parasitic.
We use a model host-parasite system 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 and both have substantial genomic resources and molecular tools available. As you can see from the video above (taken by graduate student Julianne Pelaez), adult females of S. flava use a cutting ovipositor that serves as both an egg-laying organ and a trophic organ. The egg hatches into a larva, which then creates a mine in the leaf, where it completes development.
Why do we study the evolution of parasitism and host resistance? Parasites are incredibly successful ecologically and evolutionarily, and our research helps us understand how these organisms evolved. Parasites cause enormous harm to crops, livestock and companion animals, wildlife and humans. Using model systems may help to identify common mechanisms parasites evolved to colonize and live in their hosts, which may allow for better control strategies. 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.
Most of the research in Professor Whiteman's laboratory is supported by an R35 Outstanding Investigator Award (Maximizing Investigator's Research Award for Early Stage Investigator's) from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences (1R35GM119816) of the National Institutes of Health. We are grateful for this support.
The Whiteman Lab | Integrative Biology | University of California | Berkeley, CA 94720 Updated December 16, 2015
Photographs are copyright protected by Noah Whiteman, Whiteman lab members, or were obtained through Creative Commons licenses.