Investigating the relationship between gut microbiota and animal behaviour

Chloe Heys


Start Year: 2014, 1st cohort

Host University: The University of Liverpool

Department: Institute of Integrative Biology

Supervisors: Dr Alistair Derby, Dr Zenobia Lewis 

Chloe heys

Academic profile


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ACCE PhD Research topic

Investigating the relationship between gut microbiota and animal behaviour

There is growing interest in the mutualistic relationships between gut microbiota and their hosts, yet the link between gut flora and behaviour has remained largely unexplored, despite potential consequences for social evolution and speciation. Previous work has shown that gut microbiota can affect the ability of Drosophila melanogaster to recognise kin, however universality of this phenomena, and the mechanisms underlying it, are unknown. This cross-disciplinary project will investigate the role of gut microbiota in sexual and social recognition systems, in species of Drosophila with varied ecologies. This project will use a variety of methods – conventional behavioural and evolutionary ecology, combined with microbiology while also utilise cutting-edge genomic technologies and bioinformatics methods. We aim to address the following objectives: 1) Determine which gut bacteria underlie processes of kin recognition and mate choice. 2) Examine whether gut bacteria is directly linked to the scent profile of an individual. 3) Examine the mechanism underlying the interaction between gut flora and kin recognition in Drosophila.