Most research characterising the roles genes play in specific phenotypes has focused on genes with homologs across many organisms. These genes generally evolve by divergence and/or duplication. In contrast, surprisingly little is known about the evolution of the many recently discovered “novel” or taxonomically restricted genes despite mounting evidence that they play key roles in phenotypes from metabolic functions to morphological and behavioural specialization.
By analysing newly sequenced transcriptomics data from social insects using advanced comparative genomics techniques, we will test competing hypotheses regarding how new genes are born, their fate, and their roles in novel behavioural phenotypes.
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