The molecular basis and evolution of host manipulation by nematomorph parasites

A horse hair worm emerging from a grasshopper in the palm of a hand

A horsehair worm emerging from a dead cricket, image by Alastair Rae (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This project aims to understand the molecular and genomic biology underpinning host behaviour manipulation and to investigate the diversity of nematomorph worms in the UK.

Nematomorpha (also known as Gordian worms or horsehair worms) are a phylum of parasites that infect invertebrates. To develop into adults and find a mate, the nematomorph worms must move from their host to an aquatic environment.

They achieve this by manipulating the behaviour of the host, causing it to jump into water. We know very little about the mechanisms that parasites have evolved to manipulate host behaviour, particularly at a genetic and molecular level. No genome has ever been published for a member of this phylum and we only have limited knowledge about the distribution of nematomorphs within the UK.

This project aims to understand the molecular and genomic biology underpinning host behaviour manipulation and to investigate the diversity of nematomorph worms in the UK.

Admission

Enquiries relating to the application process should be directed to doctoraladmissions@bath.ac.uk.

Candidates should apply formally using the relevant University of Bath online application form.

When completing the form, please state in the ‘Finance’ section that you wish to be considered for NERC GW4+ DTP funding and quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the ‘Your research interests’ section. If you wish, you may apply for more than one project within the same application but you should submit a separate personal statement for each one.

If you have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, please upload documentary evidence with your application.

More information on how to apply may be found in the Bath University online guides

References

Rachel J. Swanteson-Franz et al (2018). New hairworm (Nematomorpha, Gordiida) species described from the Arizona Madrean Sky Islands. Zookeys. (733): 131–145. 

Christina Anaya, Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa, Ben Hanelt, Matthew G. Bolek (2019). A new species of Gordius (Phylum Nematomorpha) from terrestrial habitats in North AmericaZookeys. 2019; 892: 59–75. 

Ben Hanelt, Matthew G. Bolek, Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa (2012). Going Solo: Discovery of the First Parthenogenetic Gordiid (Nematomorpha: Gordiida). PLoS One. 2012; 7(4): e34472. 

Christopher E. Laumer et al. (2019). Revisiting metazoan phylogeny with genomic sampling of all phyla. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Volume 286 Issue 1906

Hunt, V., Tsai, I., Coghlan, A. et al. (2016). The genomic basis of parasitism in the Strongyloides clade of nematodes. Nat Genet 48, 299–307 

Hunt, V.L., Hino, A., Yoshida, A. et al.  (2018). Comparative transcriptomics gives insights into the evolution of parasitism in Strongyloides nematodes at the genus, subclade and species levelSci Rep 8, 5192

Yuki Yoshida, et al. (2017). Comparative genomics of the tardigrades Hypsibius dujardini and Ramazzottius varieornatus. PLOS Biology

Apply for this project

You can apply for this course through Bath University website.

Application deadline: 8 January 2021

Any questions?

University of Bath

Lead supervisor: Dr Vicky Hunt

Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership

Joint PhD training partnerships between the Natural History Museum and the Great Western Four, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities.