Jessica Abbott

Jessica Abbott

Senior lecturer

Personal profile


Research interests

My main interest is in the evolutionary genetics of sex differences, especially sexually antagonistic genetic variation—in other words, when the same gene has opposite effects on the fitness of males and females. Sexually antagonistic genes and traits are interesting because they may hold the key to one of the long-standing paradoxes in evolutionary biology: the maintenance of standing genetic variation. When selection is strong and traits are heritable, it is expected that standing genetic variance for fitness should be rapidly depleted. Yet this is not what we see when we look at natural populations. Sexual antagonism may provide an answer since it means that the fitness of any given allele is context-dependent, preventing rapid depletion of genetic variance.

I have studied sexually antagonistic genetic variation in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) for a number of years, and have added a new study organism to my lab since I started working in Lund: the hermaphroditic flatworm Macrostomum lignano. We use this species to investigate how sex chromosomes evolve in a hermaphrodite ancestor, and whether sexual antagonism seems to play a role.

Short biography

I am originally from Canada, and started my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph. During my third undergraduate year I came to Lund as part of an international exchange program. I liked it so much that I wanted to stay longer, and ended up living here for 8 years while completing a Master’s and a PhD on polymorphism in damselflies. During that time I met my husband, got married, and we had our first child.

In 2007 we moved to Canada so that I could do a postdoc with Adam Chippindale at Queen's University in Kingston. We stayed there for just over two years, and our second child was born there. In November 2009 we moved back to Sweden so that I could join Ted Morrow's lab at Uppsala University. I worked there for two years, the second year as part of a collaboration with Klaus Reinhardt from the University of Tübingen.

In 2012 I returned to Lund as an independent researcher. I obtained an ERC Starting Grant for my work on sex chromosomes and sexual antagonism in 2015, and in 2016 I was hired as a Senior University Lecturer in evolutionary genetics of eukaryotes.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


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Collaborations the last five years

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