Genomics of mimicry in Neotropical catfishes


Genomics of mimicry in Neotropical catfishes


Project Description


Dr Martin Taylor, University of East Anglia – Contact me

Professor Tracey Chapman, University of East Anglia, School of Biology

Professor David  Richardson, University of East Anglia, School of Biology

Scientific background the wider context; why the project is important and timely

Mimetic relationships  – where two or more species share colour patterns to reduce attacks by predators are some of the most powerful demonstrations of natural selection. The best-known examples can be found in Heliconius butterflies, millipedes and poison arrow frogs. A less well-known, but nevertheless intriguing system can be found in the Corydoras catfishes, where multiple communities of mimics can be found coexisting across South America. Using whole genome resequencing, this project will investigate the genetic basis of colour pattern traits involved in mimicry and search for signatures of selection both within and among mimicry rings to gain a better understanding of how mimicry has evolved.

Research methodology; what precisely will the student do? Where? How?

The project will use existing chromosome level whole genome sequences with additional whole genome resequencing of Corydoradinae species involved in different mimicry rings, coupled with cutting edge bioinformatic analyses (e.g. detecting positive selection and selective sweeps) to identify genes and genomic regions associated with colour pattern mimicry.

Training; what opportunities will the student have? What skills will they gain?

The applicant will receive training in molecular laboratory techniques such as DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction, Next generation sequencing, bioinformatic methods for comparative genome analysis and detection of selection within and among species. There will also be training in advanced statistical methods and plotting in R. There is the potential for conducting fieldwork in South America, but this is not essential for the project.

Person specification

The applicant should have a degree in biology, genetics or similar and strong background/interest in genetics and or evolutionary biology. An aptitude for bioinformatic analyses and experience with a scripting language would be an advantage although not essential.


  • 1 Alexandrou, M., Oliveira, C, Maillard, M, McGill, R.A.R., Newton, J., Creer, S. and M. I. Taylor. (2011) Competition and phylogeny determine community structure in Müllerian co-mimics. Nature 469:84–88, 2011. DOI:10.1038/nature09660
  • 2 Marburger S, Alexandrou M, Taggart JB, Creer S, Carvalho G, Oliveira C, Aylor, M.I. et al. Whole genome duplication and transposable element proliferation drive genome expansion in Corydoradinae catfishes. Proceedings of the Royal Soc: B Biol Sci. 2018 Feb 14;285(1872). 20172732.Marburger S, Alexandrou M, Taggart JB, Creer S, Carvalho G, Oliveira C, Aylor, M.I. et al. Whole genome duplication and transposable element proliferation drive genome expansion in Corydoradinae catfishes. Proceedings of the Royal Soc: B Biol Sci. 2018 Feb 14;285(1872). 20172732.
  • 3 Bell, E. A., Butler, C. L., Oliveira, C., Marburger, S., Yant, L., & Taylor, M. I. (2022). Transposable element annotation in non-model species: The benefits of species-specific repeat libraries using semi-automated EDTA and DeepTE de novo pipelines. Molecular Ecology Resources, 22, 823– 833.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2024. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 10th January 2024.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£18,622 p.a. for 2023/24) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK. We expect to award between 4 and 6 studentships to international candidates in 2024.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.
  • ARIES funding is subject to UKRI terms and conditions. Postgraduate Researchers are expected to live within reasonable distance of their host organisation for the duration of their studentship. See for more information

Applications open

Click this link to apply to University of East Anglia