May 23, 2018
We have just posted a new manuscript to bioRxiv, where we describe the structural differences between the SB and Sb versions of the fire ant social chromosome pair.
We find that Sb is larger than SB and discuss how the suppression of recombination of Sb would lead to this type of ‘degenerative expansion’, as hypothesised for Y chromosomes and other non-recombining chromosomal regions. Read the manuscript, and tell us what you think!
May 18, 2018
This year the Wurm Lab were out in force at the annual Festival of Communities held in Stepney Green Park on Saturday 12 May. We brought some of our lab colonies of social invertebrates to demonstrate differences in social complexity including: Messor barbarus ants, Bombus terrestris bumblebees, and Stegodyphus dumicola social spiders. We had a fantastic time talking to the public about our research, taking groups around the park on minibeast safaris, and running a kids’ craft table where solitary bee hotels made from recycled drinks cartons were beautifully decorated. It was an immensely enjoyable day meeting people from the local community and some very enthusiastic and inspiring future scientists.
February 20, 2018
What is it? We called it the Index, it is our monthly reading review, tailored to our areas of interest and research.
Why do you do it? Because there are so many articles being published it can be quite difficult to keep up with reading new material. We want to increase our general knowledge of important questions, techniques and discoveries in our wider research areas while decreasing the likelihood of missing any relevant “key papers”. We are also keen to efficiently help each other out by sharing our readings. Finally, we are getting to read more broadly - including topics outside our comfort zone.
How does it work? Each month, each Wurmlab member gets a list of three journals to review from our own journal generator. The script is on Github here. Three articles that are relevant to the group or a particular lab member are picked form each journal’s table of contents. These articles are added to a document that anyone in the lab group can read at any time.
Great, where can I see an example? See the last instalment of the Index here.
February 15, 2018
Join us in Guarujá!
We (Emeline, Carlos & Yannick) are excited to host a symposium on the evolution of social organisation at the upcoming IUSSI conference.
We welcome a diversity of approaches and study systems. If you’re unsure about the relevance of your work, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Full symposium title and abstract below:
How an insect society is organized varies tremendously between but also within species and populations. Such diversity includes variation in numbers of reproductive individuals, modes of reproduction and of dispersal, relationships with neighboring colonies, degrees of morphological and behavioral caste specialization, and interactions (mutualistic, parasitic, predatory…) with closely or distantly related species.
Understanding how and when changes in social lifestyle occur is central to the study of social evolution. More specifically, can we measure the evolutionary pressures involved in changes of social organisation? Are particular ecological conditions involved? Can molecular, genetic or physiological features constrain or facilitate social evolution? What are the effects of a change in social interactions on how natural selection can act?
Encompassing the complexities of such multifaceted topics requires interdisciplinary discussion. This symposium will thus include both theoretical and empirical research addressing the topic from a variety of scales and angles.
January 3, 2018
It shouldn’t really be necessary to share this. But it keeps popping up (in particular when students are learning to program in R).
It is nonsensical to compare text to numbers. But R will let you. For example:
> "a" > 1  TRUE > "A" > 1  TRUE > "bob" > 99  TRUE
I suspect that this is a remnant of the desire to be able to compare letters (e.g., for sorting ASCII characters alphabetically “A” < “D”).
When new to programming in R, you might ask the user to input a number. For example with
input_number <- readline(prompt="Enter a number: ")
This comes into R as text, not as a number. Unless you run
strtoi() on the input, it will remain text. Comparisons are then equivalent to the following
> 1 == "10"  FALSE > 10 == "10"  TRUE > 100 == "10"  FALSE > 11 < "10"  FALSE > 1 < "10"  TRUE > 9 < "10" # <- uh-oh  FALSE > 3 < "10"  FALSE
Note that some of these comparisons yield the result that you would expect if only comparing numbers. But some of them (e.g., the last 2) give you an incorrect response. This is dangerous.
R does not show an error message; it acts as is everything is ok, and gives you a response that looks reasonable (i.e., TRUE or FALSE). It would thus be easy for this type of mistake to go undetected.
strtoion something text that is not unambiguously a number, R will show an error message or return
testtthatto ensure that even the small pieces of code you write behave as you would expect.
December 27, 2017
Despite the lack of updates, things have been happening!
After our discovery of extremely low genetic diversity in the Sb variant of the fire ant social chromosome, we asked what is going on with Gp-9? This is the original odorant binding protein that Ken Ross found - using starch gel electrophoresis - to be fully associated with single vs multiple-queen colonies.
The patterns described back then still hold, but surprisingly we find that nine additional Gp-9-like odorant binding protein genes are in the social chromosome region of suppressed recombination. The descriptions of all 23 fire ant Odorant Binding Proteins, their expression profiles, and the differences between social chromosome alleles are detailed in Evolution Letters:
In a different paper, we review findings from the most recent analyses of the 23 ant genomes and 38 ant transcriptomes.
Lab members had the opportunity to present at many occassions, including:
Finally, we congratulate Gino Brignoli & Abdoulie Kanteh for the high marks achieved for their MSc disserations, and Roddy Pracana for submitting his PhD:
August 29, 2017
Written by Hiten Chowdhary, cross-posted from (http://www.hiten.io/blog/articles/gsoc-17/)[http://www.hiten.io/blog/articles/gsoc-17/]
This is a summary of the work done during this summer as part of Google Summer of Code 2017 under the organisation Open Genome Informatics under the guidance of my mentors Yannick Wurm and Anurag Priyam.
Problem Statement: Performance and user centric improvements to Afra’s annotation editor.
Brief explanation: Gene prediction models are visually inspected and manually corrected for any mistakes. Curation of gene models is carried out on Afra, a crowdsourcing platform. Afra has two models - an annotation editor and a task processor. The annotation editor is build using JBrowse and WebApollo. This project focuses on migrating Afra to the latest JBrowse and getting a unit test suite ready to optimize the annotation editor and ease the learning curve of manual curation.
For migration of Afra, we took a look at JBrowse and Afra’s codebase. We examined the files added to Afra’s codebase, which exhibited the annotation editor functionality along with additional features of Afra. These differences in codebase were carried over to JBrowse as a plugin. This provided the annotation editor functionality which could be easily plugged into JBrowse or any other Genome browser.
Annotation editor uses Jasmine for unit tests. Jasmine was easy to setup and can be executed using a simple web server. I examined the already implemented tests for different functionalities of Afra. This provided me an insight into the processing of tests implemented in Afra. Further, I added some tests for the annotation editor functionality. These tests were:
Here is the link to my commits for the test suite.
We started building a plugin for the JBrowse to carry over the annotation editor functionality to JBrowse. This would provide Afra’s annotation edition functionality to use the latest JBrowse features, making the migration process smoother. The plugin development took place in the following steps :-
Now we had a basic plugin in place that had implemented the basic annotation editing functionality. (commit)
Now additional features of Afra had to be carried over. These feature are :-
Finally, we had successfully implemented the annotation editor of Afra as a plugin of JBrowse, along with extra features of Afra too. Further, to test whether all the annotation editing functionalities are working properly we implemented the test suite for the plugin.(commit)
July 10, 2017
The Evolution meeting took place this June in Portland, Oregon. This meeting is organised every year and is one of the largest conferences in our field.
Creating their schedule from an incredibly rich program of up to 13 parallel sessions, Natalia and Emeline caught up with the latest on social systems, genomics and evolutionary stories. They also participated in the conference:
The meeting was a wonderful occasion to catch up with collaborators and presenting the Wurmlab research to this (mainly) North American audience. Next year, Evolution will join ESEB in Montpellier (France), for a joint meeting.
May 16, 2017
The Royal Entomological Society’s Insect Genomics Interest Group meeting took place on May 16th at the Rothamsted Research Centre.
The speakers to this event included highly relevant researchers from all over the world, covering a wide range of subjects in insect genomics, from pest control to evolutionary biology. Of course the Wurmlab could not miss this chance and Carlos Martinez-Ruiz, Joe Colgan and Anurag Priyam attended the event to disseminate our research:
The meeting was very fruitful, and offered exciting opportunities for collaborations between the Wurmlab and other researchers from institutions in the UK and abroad.
We look forward to the next meeting!
February 21, 2017
Our paper on the genetic diversity of the fire ant social chromosomes has been accepted in Molecular Ecology and is now available online!
The fire ant social chromosomes carry a supergene that controls the number of queens in a colony. We describe a few features of this supergene system:
You can check out the press release, which covers some of the details about our work.
The full reference is: R Pracana, A Priyam, I Levantis, RA Nichols and Y Wurm. (2017) The fire ant social chromosome supergene variant Sb shows low diversity but high divergence from SB Molecular Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/mec.14054