Date of Thesis

Spring 2020


Identifying the basis of phenotypic variation is a key objective of genetics. This work has been mostly limited to model systems with a plethora of genetic manipulation and functional characterization tools. With the development of high-throughput sequencing and new computational tools, it is possible to identify candidate genes related to phenotypic variation in non-model organisms. Fireflies are excellent for studying phenotypic variation because of their varied and well-characterized behaviors. Most adult fireflies emit a single mating flash pattern and do not eat. In contrast, adult females of many species in the genus Photuris employ multiple flash patterns and prey upon mate-seeking males of other firefly species. To investigate the genetic basis for this variation, we used comparative transcriptomics to identify positively selected genes between a predatory firefly, Photuris sp., and a non-predatory relative, Photuris frontalis, controlling for genes generally under selection in fireflies by comparing to a Photinus firefly. Nine gene families were identified under positive selection in the predatory versus non-predatory Photuris comparison, including genes involved in digestion, detoxification, vision, reproduction, and neural processes. These results generate intriguing hypotheses about the genetic basis for insect behavior and highlight the utility of comparative transcriptomic tools to investigate complex behaviors in other non-model systems.


evolution, genomics, coleoptera, insect, computational biology, bioinformatics

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Sarah Lower

Second Advisor

Gregory Pask