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Viennese Vet Institute Wins $3.3M for Adaptation Genomics Study

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The European Research Council has provided €2.5 million ($3.3 million) to a research project at Vienna's University of Veterinary Medicine (Vetmeduni Vienna) that will study how genetic alterations influence animal evolution, the university said today.

The five-year ERC Advanced Investigator Grant was awarded to Christian Schlötterer, head of the Institute of Population Genetics at the university.

The project will conduct lab experiments on fruit flies to discover how they adapt to temperature changes over time, and will examine the alterations in the flies' genes, RNA, and phenotype over a five-year period.

Schlötterer said in a statement that environmental adaptations are similar to breeding programs, because many of the functions that cause the changes in phenotype are not apparent during the process.

"The results may be clear, but we still don't understand the mechanism behind the changes," he explained.

His team at Vetmeduni including statisticians, bioinformaticians, and biologists will work together to collect and analyze the genomic and phenotype data in the search for these alterations. They aim to show how important natural variation is in making the molecular adaptations that are necessary for organisms to adjust to changing environments.

"Not only will the work explain why natural populations are so diverse, it will also teach us how many genes need to be changed for animals to be successful in a new environment," Schlötterer said.