The Population Genomics of Amphioxus
Understanding how genetic variations in natural populations are generated and preserved through time is one of central issues in evolutionary biology. The development of population genetics and molecular evolution during the last century provides a full set of theoretical frameworks for studying various forces shaping this evolutionary process. However, traditionally, such studies were majorly focused on relatively small samples of loci. The recent emerging next-generation sequencing technology greatly expanded our ability in data generation and opened up new opportunities for applying population genetics/molecular evolution frameworks to the genomic level. By investigating and comparing genetic variations within and between populations, population genomics offers a comprehensive view of different evolutionary forces (mutation, drift, selection, gene flow) with unprecedented resolution. It is one of the cutting-edge fields in evolutionary biology and I am excited to join and hopefully can contribute to this field with my own research.
Particularly for my research, I am focusing on the genomics of Amphioxus (Asymmetron and Branchiostoma specifically). They are the representative species of cephalochordates, a sister group of vertebrates yet with much simpler genomic architectures. Amphioxus are considered as the best proxy available for the common ancestor of chordates, therefore the study on them will not only deepen our understanding about these living fossils, but shed light on our understanding about the origin of all chordate animals as well. I am currently working on 1) characterizing and comparing the genetic variations in their natural populations, 2) investigating the footprints of evolutionary forces that shaped the variation patterns we observed, 3) discovering Amphioxus sex chromosomes or sex determined regions by contrasting genomic information between males and females.