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Title: Interwoven tributaries : a community genetics platform for ecological interactions
Author: Khudr, Mouhammad Shadi
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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Community genetics research investigates the influence of intra-specific genetic variation on species interactions. This rapidly growing research field consists of more than one approach to explore how a significant portion of the environment of a focal species is differentially defined by the expressed genomes of other interacting species. While the basic concept of community genetics is well supported empirically, there is still a set of pertinent issues in need of further investigation. The initial research addressed herein focused on the extent to which the magnitude of a community genetic effect can be moderated when acting in concert with other forces in nature, i.e. the interaction between community genetic effects and the effects of other eco-evolutionary processes such as competition and parasitism. Subsequent research investigated the impact of genetic variation of host plants in agro-ecosystems on the performance (reproductive success) and behaviour (distribution and feeding-site choice) of plant-associated pests such as aphids, especially when pests and their hosts were subject to plant-mediated interactions. In addition, the differential effects of Indirect Ecological Effects (IEEs) and Indirect Genetic effects (IGEs) on the emergence of shared (extended) phenotypes between natural enemies (i.e. biological control agents and phytophagous insects) were examined. I provide clear evidence for significant effects of the genetic variation of host plant on aphid performance, behaviour and intra- and inter-specific competition. My findings also give credence to the concept of reciprocal moderation between plant genotype and aphid competition. I also provide observations on competition that segues into less antagonistic and possibly into a more cooperative form of interaction. In addition, I establish novel systems of economically important crop genotypes, noxious sap-feeding aphid species and root-galling nematodes. I also devise an amalgamated approach to interpret the interwoven set of mechanisms that underpin the observations presented and conclusions drawn. I also provide further investigation on the role of Indirect Ecological Effects (IEEs) between root-knot nematodes and sap-feeding aphids, and demonstrate the influence of in-plant variation on the interaction between the spatially separated plant consumers. Furthermore, I use a quantitative genetic experimental design in order to demonstrate a differential impact of parasitoid genotype on the behaviour of its aphid host. As such, I provide some of the clearest evidence to date that the phenotype of an organism can be the product of the genes expressed in another organism via Inter-specific Indirect Genetic Effects (IIGEs). Finally, I conducted research on epiphytic bromeliads and their associated faunal communities in the tropics. Here I demonstrate that the influence of intra-specific genetic variation of the host plant on the associated ecological communities may be more universal than previously conceived, with a plausible role for such variation in the maintenance of biological diversity. My research provides evidence for the genetic basis of species interactions and, interestingly, a genetic basis for the evolutionary arms-race between foragers and their hosts. My doctoral work adds new evidence to the increasing literature on the evolutionary importance of (Genotype x Genotype) interactions and (Genotype x Genotype x Environment) interactions in shaping the dynamics of pest communities, which in turn can affect plant phenotype and can influence the properties and services of the focal ecosystem in which the inter-players live and interact.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Community Genetics ; pea aphid ; animal ecology ; species interactions ; ecological interactions ; species diversity ; genetic diversity ; Agro-ecosystems ; cultivar ; broad bean ; competition