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Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (FIBR) 2003 awards

"Causes and Consequences of Recombination"

Daphnia, a freshwater crustacean
Daphnia, a freshwater crustacean about 2mm long, is also known as the water flea. In transparent profile can be spotted its antenna for swimming and sensing, a large compound eye, digestive track, three eggs, an external shell, and legs.
Photo by Paul Hebert, University of Guelph.
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September 2003

Genetic recombination - combining genes from two different individuals into the genetic set of an offspring - is what sexual reproduction is all about. But what does it mean to a population?

Combining genomics, ecology, mathematics and other disciplines, an NSF Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research project, led by Michael Lynch at Indiana University, hopes to find out by focusing on the mechanisms and impacts of genetic recombination in water fleas, tiny freshwater crustaceans of the genus Daphnia.

The life cycle of water fleas - and whether they reproduce sexually or not - depends on the conditions in their pond. During the summer, most Daphnia are female and reproduce without mating, but, as the water begins to chill, more males are produced and sexual reproduction occurs. But the fertilized eggs that result from this meiotic cycle may lie dormant for years. Indeed centuries-old viable eggs have been recovered from sediments, and other eggs thousands of years old still harbor DNA that can be analyzed.

This gives Lynch's team the opportunity to ask questions about the short- and long-term impacts of genetic recombination. For example, how does it affect the accumulation of mutations? And does it help the population adapt to stress?

According to Susan Porter Ridley, who directs an NSF program on genome structures, "Meiosis, the hallmark of sexual reproduction, provides an opportunity for an organism to generate new genetic combinations. It has long been supposed that this might confer an evolutionary advantage." This project, she said, "shows great promise" to meet the challenge of testing this notion.

Lead principal investigator (Indiana University):
Michael Lynch, (812) 855-7384;

Participating institutions:

  • Indiana University (Lynch, Curt Lively, Elizabeth Housworth, Mimi Solan, Justin Andrews, John Colbourne)
  • University of Idaho (Barrie Robinson)
  • University of Illinois (Carla Caceres)
  • University of New Hampshire (W. Kelley Thomas)
  • University of Edinburgh, Scotland (Tom Little)
  • Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (Jeffrey Boore)

Media contact at Indiana University: David Bricker, (812) 856-9035,

Total NSF funding, through August 2008: $5,000,627

Helpful web sites:
Daphnia Genomics Consortium:
Indiana University release:

Award abstract:

The FIBR projects announced today include the following:

Return to news release.


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