Cory Berger L&S Sciences
Silk Gene Expression Associated with Loss of Web-Building in Tetragnatha Spiders
Discovering how traits evolve or are lost is key to understanding the processes underlying biodiversity. Web-building is an ancestral trait in orb-weaving spiders, but several taxa have secondarily lost the ability to build webs. Among the long-jawed spiders of the genus Tetragnatha, there are species that exhibit a range of web-building phenotypes, including the total loss of web-building and the construction of reduced webs. My research will use Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) to investigate the silk organs of these species, which will provide a clear picture of the morphologies associated with the varying levels of web-building. Then, I will use RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) techniques to analyze the complement of expressed silk genes, or transcriptomes, in each species. This comparison across closely related species will provide a greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying the evolution and loss of web-building.