RP1 Population genomics of natural enemies

This project will use next-generation sequencing technology to quantify the genetic variation and genomic regions under selection in natural as well as mass-culture populations of three important natural enemies with contrasting biology.

Intraspecific genetic variation in arthropods is often studied in the context of evolution and ecology. Such knowledge, can also be very usefully applied for selection of genotypes with optimal trait values to develop more effective biocontrol agents. Key for this approach is the presence of adequate genetic variation as it determines the potential of populations to adapt to breeding objectives. Therefore, fundamental knowledge on the genetic variation of natural enemies, both in the field and in commercial mass-cultures, is of prime importance to design sampling programs and mass-rearing protocols.

In this project, we aim to investigate the genetic variation in natural, as well as in mass-culture populations of three economically important natural enemies with contrasting biology, the predatory mite Amblyseius swirskii, the predatory bug Nesidiocoris tenuis and the parasitoid wasp Trichogramma brassicae. Particular focus will be on the comparison of the genomic diversity between field collected and commercially reared populations. Using next-generation sequencing data and analysis, we will generate whole-genome data for these three species. This will allow to detect the genomic regions that are under selection in both situations in order to adapt to environmental and laboratory conditions. The whole-genome data will also be used in by other projects (RP3, RP10 and RP12) to facilitate artificial breeding and monitoring of natural enemies.