Research team

The use of alternative genomic markers to reconstruct the complex evolutionary histroy of neotropical small felids. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

Tracing the evolutionary origin of species can be a challenging task, especially when these species cross-breed and thereby cloud the genetic record of their evolution. Fast-developing techniques in acquiring genetic information have improved to the point where complete genomes can be routinely sequenced. One of the upcoming questions is how to make optimal use of this massive amount of data. This research project combines the above challenges, by using complete genomes of a group of cross-breeding cat species from Latin America. The objective is to optimize the use of vast genomic data to elucidate evolutionary history in a complex context of hybridization and other confounding processes. Various international partners are involved, and I will set up a close collaboration between the University of Antwerp and PUCRS, a Brazilian university with expertise in Neotropical carnivores. Part of the data required for this project is already available at PUCRS, where I contributed to the preliminary results that guide the two objectives of this project: (1) use complete genomes, including from museum specimens, to clarify the evolutionary relationships between the different species of small spotted cats in Latin America, and (2) complement the first objective with novel methods based on alternative genomic markers and partitions to maximize the amount of information that can be gained from these genomic sequences.

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