Investigating how physiologies & genomes evolve

Dr. Omera Matoo







Research interests

I am broadly interested in how organisms respond (mechanistically and evolutionarily) to environmental challenges. During my PhD, I studied the effects of multiple environmental stressors (temperature, salinity and pH fluctuations) on the physiology of marine bivalves. This developed my interest in exploring the possible role of underlying genetic architecture for varied and complex physiological responses of organisms across various heterogeneous environmental gradients.

My work in Montooth lab aims to answer the broad question of whether the ability to maintain metabolic rate in heterogeneous environments is under selection using Drosophila as the model organism. Drosophila has adapted to use environmental ethanol and acetic acid during its spread, about ten thousand years ago, from tropical Africa into temperate latitudes that experience greater thermal fluctuation.

Specifically, my project explores if different genotypes exposed to thermal and ethanol environments adapt by maintaining their metabolic rate. To address this, I expose different wild type and mitochondrial-nuclear genotypes (that are energetically inefficient) to thermal and ethanol environments and assess if the survival of these genotypes is associated with 1.) differences in lipid composition of their mitochondrial membranes, 2.) mitochondrial bioenergetics and 3.) whole-organism metabolic rate. This research provides a useful insight in the genetic basis of physiological adaptation in heterogeneous environments.