Faculty in Biology
Steve Perlman, Associate Professor
Office: CUNN 160f Office Phone: 250-721-6319
My research focuses on the evolution and ecology of associations between insects and the diverse organisms that infect them, from parasites and pathogens to beneficial symbionts. Most recently, my major area of focus has been on bacterial symbionts that are transmitted primarily from mothers to their offspring, often via eggs. These inherited bacteria are ubiquitous and extremely important in the evolution and ecology of their hosts. For example, many of these symbionts protect their hosts against natural enemies. Others persist in their hosts by manipulating their reproduction, often in unusual ways, such as inducing parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) in their hosts. Other reproductive manipulators cause mating incompatibilities, so that uninfected females produce no offspring when they mate with infected males. I am interested in how these diverse inherited symbionts are maintained and spread in host populations, in the mechanisms involved in reproductive manipulation and protection against natural enemies, and in the long-term effects of infection on hosts.
I am also interested in characterizing novel symbionts. Finally, I am using nematode parasites of Drosophila as models for understanding the evolution and ecology of virulence, resistance, and host range, and for examining the role of parasites in shaping host communities. I also maintain an active interest in selfish genetic elements, disease ecology and evolution, unusual genetic systems and life histories, and in insects in general.