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Comparative genomics to gain insight into evolution and insecticide resistance in a major agricultural pest complex, the whitefly Bemisia tabaci


The whitefly Bemisia tabaci is one of world’s most damaging crop pest species. Intriguingly, what is considered morphologically to be a single species in fact represents a diverse species complex with its ~40 members differing substantially in their host range, invasiveness, susceptibilities to insecticides, and virus transmission properties. This project aims to understand how this can be by comparative bioinformatics analyses across recently assembled draft genomes of populations differing in biological properties. Our findings will provide major insights assisting control of this invasive pest, as well as address key evolutionary questions regarding the genetics of adaptation and speciation.

Disciplines and Techniques
Project supervisor/s
Professor Susan Seal
Agriculture Health and Environment (
University of Greenwich Natural Resources Institute (NRI)
Yannick Wurm
Organismal Biology (
Queen Mary University of London & Alan Turing Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence
Species-complex diversification and host plant associations in Bemisia tabaci: a plant-defense, detoxification perspective revealed by RNAseq analyses.
Malka O, Feldmesser E, Santos-Garcia D, Sharon E, Krause Sakate R, Delatte H, vanBrunschot S, Mugerwa H, Seal S, Colvin J and Morin S.
Molecular Ecology
Differential transmission of Sri Lankan cassava mosaic virus by three cryptic species of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci complex
Chi Y; Pan L-L; Bouvaine S; Fan Y-Y; Liu Y-Q; Liu S-S; Seal S; Wang X-W.
Virology 540, 141-149
Genes and genomic processes underpinning the social lives of ants
Favreau E, Martínez-Ruiz C, Santiago Rodrigues L, Hammond RL, Wurm Y.
Current Opinion in Insect Science, 25:83-90
Degenerative expansion of a young supergene
Stolle E, Pracana R, Howard P, Paris CI, Brown SJ, Castillo-Carrillo CA, Rossiter SJ, Wurm Y.
Molecular Biology and Evolution 36: 553-561
Healthy pollinators: evaluating pesticides with molecular medicine approaches.
López-Osorio F, Wurm Y.
Trends in Ecology & Evolution 35: 380-383