Insect Genomics Group

Insects comprise the majority of all known organisms and their role in biological research is tremendous. They provide a large number of important model organisms for genetic research. The research of the insect genomics group focuses on molecular phylogenetics and systematics of insects, particularly butterflies and moths as well as beetles, and evolutionary genomics of social insects.

The insect phylogenetics and systematics research is led by Dr. Marko Mutanen. Radiation patterns of the Lepidoptera are elucidated by applying a wide variety of mitochondrial and nuclear markers and high-throughput next-generation sequencing technologies to achieve comprehensive genomic data. Another research line concentrates on issues of DNA taxonomy in insects. A key realization is acknowledging that the “taxonomic impediment” will not be overcome by traditional morphology-based tools but requires state-of-the-art DNA-based approaches. Examples of research questions include functionality of DNA barcodes in species identification and delineation on a local and wide geographic scale, frequency of cryptic diversity and potential of next-generation sequencing in taxonomy. The group also coordinates DNA barcoding activities in Finland through the FinBOL project.

The research on social insect evolutionary genomics is led by Dr. Lumi Viljakainen. Social insects are unique among insects by having, in addition to the evolutionary conserved physiological innate immune system, also colony level (social) immunity. The unique complexity that arises from the combination of individual and colony level immunity and the paradox of high pathogen pressure and yet relatively small complement of immune genes make social insects intriguing study system in terms of evolutionary and functional genetics of immunity. Our research aims to decipher the effects of sociality, specifically colony level immune defenses, on immune gene evolution and on function of individual immunity.

Last updated: 10.2.2015