Purdue University Graduate School
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Sex Chromosome Evolution in Blow Flies

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posted on 2020-07-28, 18:21 authored by Anne Amarila AndereAnne Amarila Andere
Chromosomal mechanisms of sex determination vary greatly in phylogenetically closely related species, indicative of rapid evolutionary rates. Sex chromosome karyotypes are generally conserved within families; however, many species have derived sex chromosome configurations. Insects display a plethora of sex chromosome systems due to rapid diversification caused by changes in evolutionary processes within and between species. A good example of such a system are insects in the blow fly family Calliphoridae. While cytogenetic studies observe that the karyotype in blow flies is highly conserved (five pairs of autosomal chromosomes and one pair sex chromosome), there is variation in sex determining mechanisms and sex chromosome structure within closely related species in blow flies. The evolutionary history of sex chromosomes in blow fly species have not been fully explored. Therefore, the objective of this research was to characterize the sex chromosome structures in four species of blow flies and investigate the selective forces which have played a role in shaping the diverse sex chromosome system observed in blow flies. The blow fly species used in this study are Phormia regina, Lucilia cuprina, Chrysomya rufifacies and Chrysomya albiceps. Phormia regina,and Lucilia cuprina have a heteromorphic sex chromosome system and are amphogenic (females produce both male and female offspring in equal ratio). In contrast, Chrysomya rufifacies and Chrysomya albiceps, have a homomorphic sex chromosome system, are monogenic (females produce unisexual progeny), have two types of females (arrhenogenic females – male producers and thelygenic females – female producers), and sex of the offspring is determined by the maternal genotype.
To accomplish these tasks, a total of nine male and female individual draft genomes for each of the four species (including three individual draft genomes of Chrysomya rufifacies – male, and the two females) were sequenced and assembled providing genomic data to explore sex chromosome evolution in blow flies. Whole genome analysis was utilized to characterize and identify putative sex chromosomal sequences of the four blow fly species. Genomic evidence confirmed the presence of genetically differentiated sex chromosomes in P. regina and L. cuprina; and genetically undifferentiated sex chromosomes in C. rufifacies and C. albiceps. Furthermore, comparative analysis of the ancestral Dipteran sex chromosome (Muller element F in Drosophila) was determined to be X-linked in P. regina and L. cuprina contributing to sex chromosome differentiation but not sex-linked in C. rufifacies and C. albiceps. Evolutionary pressures are often quantified by the ratio of substitution rates at non-synonymous (dN) and synonymous (dS) sites. Substitution rate ratio analysis (dN/dS) of homologous genes indicated a weaker purifying selection may have contributed to the loss of sex-linked genes in Muller element F genes of the undifferentiated sex chromosome as compared to the differentiated sex chromosome system. Overall, the results presented herein greatly expands our knowledge in sex chromosome evolution within blow flies and will reinforce the study of sex chromosome evolution in other species with diverse sex chromosome systems.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Biological Sciences

Campus location

  • Indianapolis

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Christine Picard

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Matthew Hahn

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Nicolas Berbari

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Stephen Randall

Additional Committee Member 5

Dr. Yunlong Liu