Profiles

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Sören Nylin

Professor

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Works at Department of Zoology
Telephone 08-16 40 33
Email soren.nylin@zoologi.su.se
Visiting address Svante Arrheniusväg 18 B
Room D 519
Postal address Zoologiska institutionen: Ekologi 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I'm professor of Animal Ecology and currently Section Dean of the Biology Section at the Faculty of Science.

Teaching

I teach Science theory and Species Interactions.

Research

In my personal current project I study insect-plant relationships in a subproject of my broader series of projects on insect phenotypic plasticity. In my research as a whole I strive for a synthesis between the host plant work and the other subprojects, which deal with areas such as effects of temperature and photoperiod on insect life histories and life cycles, and the effects of phenotypic plasticity on speciation and extinction processes. Phylogenetic analysis is an important tool for such questions, and for this reason I am also very interested in butterfly systematics.

Publications

A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Sören Nylin (et al.). Trends in Ecology & Evolution 33 (1), 4-14

    Parasitehost and insectplant research have divergent traditions despite the fact that most phytophagous insects live parasitically on their host plants. In parasitology it is a traditional assumption that parasites are typically highly specialized; cospeciation between parasites and hosts is a frequently expressed default expectation. Insectplant theory has been more concerned with host shifts than with cospeciation, and more with hierarchies among hosts than with extreme specialization. We suggest that the divergent assumptions in the respective fields have hidden a fundamental similarity with an important role for potential as well as actual hosts, and hence for host colonizations via ecological fitting. A common research program is proposed which better prepares us for the challenges from introduced species and global change.

  • 2014. Sören Nylin, Jessica Slove, Niklas Janz. Evolution 68 (1), 105-124

    It has been suggested that phenotypic plasticity is a major factor in the diversification of life, and that variation in host range in phytophagous insects is a good model for investigating this claim. We explore the use of angiosperm plants as hosts for nymphalid butterflies, and in particular the evidence for past oscillations in host range and how they are linked to host shifts and to diversification. At the level of orders of plants, a relatively simple pattern of host use and host shifts emerges, despite the 100 million years of history of the family Nymphalidae. We review the evidence that these host shifts and the accompanying diversifications were associated with transient polyphagous stages, as suggested by the oscillation hypothesis. In addition, we investigate all currently polyphagous nymphalid species and demonstrate that the state of polyphagy is rare, has a weak phylogenetic signal, and a very apical distribution in the phylogeny; we argue that these are signs of its transient nature. We contrast our results with data from the bark beetles Dendroctonus, in which a more specialized host use is instead the apical state. We conclude that plasticity in host use is likely to have contributed to diversification in nymphalid butterflies.

  • 2008. Niklas Janz, Sören Nylin. Specialization, speciation and radiation, 203-215
  • 2015. Sören Nylin (et al.). Ecological Entomology 40 (3), 307-315

    1. In the study of the evolution of insect-host plant interactions, important information is provided by host ranking correspondences among female preference, offspring preference, and offspring performance. Here, we contrast such patterns in two polyphagous sister species in the butterfly family Nymphalidae, the Nearctic Polygonia faunus, and the Palearctic P. c-album. 2. These two species have similar host ranges, but according to the literature P. faunus does not use the ancestral host plant clade-the urticalean rosids'. Comparisons of the species can thus test the effects of a change in insect-plant associations over a long time scale. Cage experiments confirmed that P. faunus females avoid laying eggs on Urtica dioica (the preferred host of P. c-album), instead preferring Salix, Betula, and Ribes.3. However, newly hatched larvae of both species readily accept and grow well on U. dioica, supporting the general theory that evolutionary changes in host range are initiated through shifts in female host preferences, whereas larvae are more conservative and also can retain the capacity to perform well on ancestral hosts over long time spans.4. Similar rankings of host plants among female preference, offspring preference, and offspring performance were observed in P. c-album but not in P. faunus. This is probably a result of vestiges of larval adaptations to the lost ancestral host taxon in the latter species. 5. Female and larval preferences seem to be largely free to evolve independently, and consequently larval preferences warrant more attention.

  • 2016. Lucie Kucerova (et al.). BMC Genomics 17

    Background: In models extensively used in studies of aging and extended lifespan, such as C. elegans and Drosophila, adult senescence is regulated by gene networks that are likely to be similar to ones that underlie lifespan extension during dormancy. These include the evolutionarily conserved insulin/IGF, TOR and germ line-signaling pathways. Dormancy, also known as dauer stage in the larval worm or adult diapause in the fly, is triggered by adverse environmental conditions, and results in drastically extended lifespan with negligible senescence. It is furthermore characterized by increased stress resistance and somatic maintenance, developmental arrest and reallocated energy resources. In the fly Drosophila melanogaster adult reproductive diapause is additionally manifested in arrested ovary development, improved immune defense and altered metabolism. However, the molecular mechanisms behind this adaptive lifespan extension are not well understood. Results: A genome wide analysis of transcript changes in diapausing D. melanogaster revealed a differential regulation of more than 4600 genes. Gene ontology (GO) and KEGG pathway analysis reveal that many of these genes are part of signaling pathways that regulate metabolism, stress responses, detoxification, immunity, protein synthesis and processes during aging. More specifically, gene readouts and detailed mapping of the pathways indicate downregulation of insulin-IGF (IIS), target of rapamycin (TOR) and MAP kinase signaling, whereas Toll-dependent immune signaling, Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) and Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT) pathways are upregulated during diapause. Furthermore, we detected transcriptional regulation of a large number of genes specifically associated with aging and longevity. Conclusions: We find that many affected genes and signal pathways are shared between dormancy, aging and lifespan extension, including IIS, TOR, JAK/STAT and JNK. A substantial fraction of the genes affected by diapause have also been found to alter their expression in response to starvation and cold exposure in D. melanogaster, and the pathways overlap those reported in GO analysis of other invertebrates in dormancy or even hibernating mammals. Our study, thus, shows that D. melanogaster is a genetically tractable model for dormancy in other organisms and effects of dormancy on aging and lifespan.

  • 2016. Maria de la Paz Celorio-Mancera (et al.). BMC Evolutionary Biology 16

    Background: Although most insect species are specialized on one or few groups of plants, there are phytophagous insects that seem to use virtually any kind of plant as food. Understanding the nature of this ability to feed on a wide repertoire of plants is crucial for the control of pest species and for the elucidation of the macroevolutionary mechanisms of speciation and diversification of insect herbivores. Here we studied Vanessa cardui, the species with the widest diet breadth among butterflies and a potential insect pest, by comparing tissue-specific transcriptomes from caterpillars that were reared on different host plants. We tested whether the similarities of gene-expression response reflect the evolutionary history of adaptation to these plants in the Vanessa and related genera, against the null hypothesis of transcriptional profiles reflecting plant phylogenetic relatedness. Result: Using both unsupervised and supervised methods of data analysis, we found that the tissue-specific patterns of caterpillar gene expression are better explained by the evolutionary history of adaptation of the insects to the plants than by plant phylogeny. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that V. cardui may use two sets of expressed genes to achieve polyphagy, one associated with the ancestral capability to consume Rosids and Asterids, and another allowing the caterpillar to incorporate a wide range of novel host-plants.

Show all publications by Sören Nylin at Stockholm University

Last updated: February 15, 2018

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