Discipline: Biological Sciences
Room: Exhibit Hall
Mason N. Petty - University of North Carolina Charlotte
Co-Author(s): Matteo Fabbri, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL; Bharat-Anjan S. Bhullar, Yale University, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, New Haven, CT; Laurel R. Yohe, UNC Charlotte, Dept. of Bioinformatics and Genomics, Charlotte, NC.
Snakes are known for various distinctive adaptations however, one adaptation that is overlooked is their outstanding sense of smell. In snakes and many vertebrate species, an animal’s sense of smell (chemosensation) is dependent upon receptors (ORs) within the olfactory epithelium and the vomeronasal organ (VNO). The VNO is an olfactory structure that detects pheromones and environmental cues, this is one of the main reasons snakes flick their tongue. ORs are receptors lined throughout an organism’s nasal cavity responsible for detecting chemical odorants. The VNO is responsible for more social behaviors while the ORs support the more functional behaviors. Given that particles will diffuse through the air differently than underwater it has been widely suggested that sea snakes have higher ratios of “non-coding” (pseudogenes) to coding chemoreceptor genes. Genomic data from 28 different squamate species were aligned to generate multiple different gene trees for each respective family of OR. Trees were separated by their status as either “coding”, “non-coding”, or “both”. Additionally, we ran a phylogenetic ANOVA (phytools package version 1.0-3 in R studio) on the ratio of the non-coding to coding genes. We have found that snakes that live primarily in aquatic environments have significantly higher ratios of pseudogenes in olfactory and vomeronasal (V2r) receptor genes. We believe that aquatic snakes have acquired specific chemosensory adaptations to their underwater environments.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): The authors acknowledge the NC-LSAMP SPRA program, which was funded through NSF Award #2010124. The authors acknowledge funding through NSF award NSF-DBI 1812035
Faculty Advisor: Laurel R. Yohe, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I was responsible for designing and outlining the project, I received the data to work with so I pursued my own research questions. I was responsible for aligning the genomic sequence data for all species using geneious prime (a genomics software). I generated all of the gene trees for each olfactory receptor family and category ("both", "pseudo", "coding" using IQ-TREE (a phylogenetics software). Additionally, I ran the statical analysis (phylogenetic ANOVA) on the ratios of coding to non-coding.