Dr. Hassan Salem, Emory University, Atlanta – 8 January 2019

Microbial mediation of folivory


Symbiosis, the long-term living together of unlike organisms, is cited as a major source of evolutionary innovation. The symbioses insects form with microbes constitute some of the most elaborate and streamlined partnerships observed in nature, endowing a multitude of functions that range from the provisioning of essential nutrients, to mate recognition, to antibiotic defense against parasites and pathogens. I aim to outline the microbial diversity associated with beetles and their functional importance, specifically focusing on the central role symbionts play in the evolution of herbivory across the most diverse animal order. Using leaf beetles as a model, my talk will detail a series of adaptations evolved by these insects to house and transmit highly specialized bacterial symbionts, and discuss the physiological and evolutionary implications of engaging with a single clade of microbes for an upward of 35 million years. Leveraging data from genomic sequencing, microscopy and field experiments, I will address (i) the metabolic currencies governing beetle-microbe interactions, and (ii) how variation in these factors drastically shapes the host’s nutritional ecology and evolution. The concluding theme to my talk concerns the question of how long-term symbioses with beneficial microbes impact the selective pressures for animals to maintain essential gene sets and the perils associated with outsourcing said functions to an obligate symbiont.

Nature of Life seminars

Date       :   8 January 2019

Time       :   15.45 hours

Location:   Room WN-F647, W&N building VU Amsterdam