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Ecology and Conservation

Dr Karl Wotton

Dr Karl Wotton

Senior Lecturer and Royal Society University Research Fellow

 K.R.Wotton@exeter.ac.uk

 Stella Turk Building B046-121

 

University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE


Overview

My research focuses on animal migration and its ecological consequences. I am particularly interested in the drivers of variation in numbers and species through migration hotspots, the interactions between co-migrants and resident species and the genetic basis of traits found in migratory organisms. If you are interested in PhD or postdoc opportunities, or would like any further information, then please get in touch.

Hoverfly migration in the Pyrenees

Qualifications

2007 PhD Evolutionary Developmental Biology, University of Oxford
2002 BSc Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology, University of Sussex

Career

2008-2015 Postdoctoral researcher, EMBL/CRG Research Unit in Systems Biology, Spain
2007-2008 Postdoctoral researcher, King's College London

Links

Research group links

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Research

Research interests

Our research focuses on spectacular long-distance migrations of insects and investigates how these tiny organisms move over vast distances and the ecological consequences of these movements.

Research projects

Long-term monitoring and comparative analysis of migratory insect populations. We monitor insect movement through migration hotspots, including high mountain passes, islands and coastal areas. We have developed a number of methods to quantify the huge numbers of individuals involved and our emerging long-term datasets are used to investigate how environmental and geographic variation influences migrant numbers and species assemblages. We use our field sites to investigate a number of interactions between co-migrants and between migrants and resident species (predation, mutualisms, disease etc) in order to understand how these mobile ecosystems function.

Orientation and energetics in migratory hoverflies. Over 4 billion migratory hoverflies move over Britain each year. These species enter in spring, reproduce through summer and the subsequent generations leave in autumn, flying south to the Mediterranean basin. To achieve this, hoverflies may cover hundreds of kilometres in a single day and thousands of kilometres over the entire period. Yet we do not understand how they know when to leave, which way to head or how they power their journeys. To investigate these questions, we use state-of-the-art flight recording technology including flight-simulators, flight-mills and vertical-looking radar to investigate compass navigation and flight capabilities of migratory hoverflies: see here and here.

Environmental induction and genetic control of migration. We utilise transcriptomics and comparative genomics to identify the molecular determinants of migration in insects. In particular, this research aims to move our understanding of the genetics of migration from correlative studies, which identify genes potentially involved in migration, to a mechanistic understanding of how these factors actually function.

Hoverflies as dual ecosystem services providers ‘pollinators+’. Hoverflies visit many of the major global food crops worth around US$300 billion per year to the world economy. In addition, they provide ecosystem functions not seen in bees: crop protection from pests, recycling of organic matter and long-distance pollen transfer. We investigate a number of questions related to the ecological utilisation of hoverflies to improve agriculture: see here.

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Publications

Journal articles

Mantica F, Iñiguez LP, Marquez Y, Permanyer J, Torres-Mendez A, Cruz J, Franch-Marro X, Tulenko F, Burguera D, Bertrand S, et al (2024). Evolution of tissue-specific expression of ancestral genes across vertebrates and insects. Nat Ecol Evol Abstract.  Author URL.
Hawkes WL, Davies K, Weston S, Moyes K, Chapman JW, Wotton KR (2023). Bat activity correlated with migratory insect bioflows in the Pyrenees. Royal Society Open Science, 10(8). Abstract.
Hawkes WL, Ozden O, Foster O, Walliker T, Lacey K, Gao B, Chapman JW, Wotton KR (2023). High mortality of beetle migrants along the Eastern Mediterranean Flyway. INSECT CONSERVATION AND DIVERSITY, 16(6), 896-901.  Author URL.
Massy R, Wotton KR (2023). The efficiency of varying methods and degrees of time compensation for the solar azimuth. Biol Lett, 19(11). Abstract.  Author URL.
Hawkes WLS, Wotton KR (2023). The genome sequence of the Batman Hoverfly, Myathropa florea (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Crowley LM, Mitchell R, Doyle T, Wotton KR (2023). The genome sequence of the Common Snout Hoverfly, Rhingia campestris (Meigen, 1822). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Hawkes WLS, Wotton KR, Lab UOOAWWGA, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Consortium DTOL (2023). The genome sequence of the Common Spotted Hoverfly, Eupeodes luniger (Meigen, 1822). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Crowley LM, Sivell O, Sivell D, Mitchell R, Barnes JC, Wotton KR (2023). The genome sequence of the Cossus hoverfly, Volucella inflata (Fabricius 1794). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Crowley LM, Poole O, Wotton KR (2023). The genome sequence of the Grey-backed Snout-hoverfly, Rhingia rostrata (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Crowley LM, Mitchell R, Lab UOOAWWGA, Lab NHMGA, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Weston ST, Wotton KR, et al (2023). The genome sequence of the Lesser Hornet Hoverfly, Volucella inanis (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Hawkes WL, Sivell O, Wotton KR (2023). The genome sequence of the Marmalade Hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus (De Geer, 1776). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Sivell D, Sivell O, Lab NHMGA, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Hawkes WL, Wotton KR, Consortium DTOL, et al (2023). The genome sequence of the Vagrant Hoverfly, Eupeodes corollae (Fabricius, 1794). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Hawkes W, Sivell O, Sivell D, Massy R, Wotton KR (2023). The genome sequence of the pied hoverfly, Scaeva pyrastri (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Hawkes WLS, Wotton KR, Lab UOOAWWGA, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Consortium DTOL (2023). The genome sequence of the slender grass hoverfly, Melanostoma scalare (Fabricius, 1794). Wellcome Open Research, 8
Doyle T, Jimenez-Guri E, Hawkes WLS, Massy R, Mantica F, Permanyer J, Cozzuto L, Hermoso Pulido T, Baril T, Hayward A, et al (2022). Genome-wide transcriptomic changes reveal the genetic pathways involved in insect migration. Mol Ecol, 31(16), 4332-4350. Abstract.  Author URL.
Hawkes WLS, Walliker E, Gao B, Forster O, Lacey K, Doyle T, Massy R, Roberts NW, Reynolds DR, Özden Ö, et al (2022). Huge spring migrations of insects from the Middle East to Europe: quantifying the migratory assemblage and ecosystem services. Ecography, 2022(10). Abstract.
Hawkes WL, Weston ST, Cook H, Doyle T, Massy R, Guri EJ, Wotton Jimenez RE, Wotton KR (2022). Migratory hoverflies orientate north during spring migration. Biol Lett, 18(10). Abstract.  Author URL.
Hawkes W, Wotton K, University of Oxford and Wytham Woods Genome Acquisition Lab, Darwin Tree of Life Barcoding collective, Wellcome Sanger Institute Tree of Life programme, Wellcome Sanger Institute Scientific Operations: DNA Pipelines collective, Tree of Life Core Informatics collective, Darwin Tree of Life Consortium (2022). The genome sequence of the dumpy grass hoverfly, <i>Melanostoma mellinum</i> (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome open research, 7 Abstract.
Hawkes W, Wotton K, Lab UOOAWWGA, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Consortium DTOL (2022). The genome sequence of the dumpy grass hoverfly, Melanostoma mellinum (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 7
Hawkes W, Wotton K, University of Oxford and Wytham Woods Genome Acquisition Lab, Darwin Tree of Life Barcoding collective, Wellcome Sanger Institute Tree of Life programme, Wellcome Sanger Institute Scientific Operations: DNA Pipelines collective, Tree of Life Core Informatics collective, Darwin Tree of Life Consortium (2022). The genome sequence of the plain-faced dronefly, <i>Eristalis arbustorum</i> (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome open research, 7 Abstract.
Hawkes W, Wotton K, Lab UOOAWWGA, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Consortium DTOL (2022). The genome sequence of the plain-faced dronefly, Eristalis arbustorum (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 7
Massy R, Hawkes WLS, Doyle T, Troscianko J, Menz MHM, Roberts NW, Chapman JW, Wotton KR (2021). Hoverflies use a time-compensated sun compass to orientate during autumn migration. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1959), 20211805-20211805. Abstract.
Ebdon S, Mackintosh A, Hayward A, Wotton K, Darwin Tree of Life Barcoding collective, Wellcome Sanger Institute Tree of Life programme, Wellcome Sanger Institute Scientific Operations: DNA Pipelines collective, Tree of Life Core Informatics collective, Darwin Tree of Life Consortium (2021). The genome sequence of the clouded yellow, <i>Colias crocea</i> (Geoffroy, 1785). Wellcome open research, 6 Abstract.
Ebdon S, Mackintosh A, Hayward A, Wotton K, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Consortium DTOL (2021). The genome sequence of the clouded yellow, Colias crocea (Geoffroy, 1785). Wellcome Open Research, 6
Hawkes W, Wotton K (2021). The genome sequence of the drone fly, Eristalis tenax (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 6
Hawkes W, Wotton K, University of Oxford and Wytham Woods Genome Acquisition Lab, Darwin Tree of Life Barcoding collective, Wellcome Sanger Institute Tree of Life programme, Wellcome Sanger Institute Scientific Operations: DNA Pipelines collective, Tree of Life Core Informatics collective, Darwin Tree of Life Consortium (2021). The genome sequence of the tapered dronefly, <i>Eristalis pertinax</i> (Scopoli, 1763). Wellcome open research, 6 Abstract.
Hawkes W, Wotton K (2021). The genome sequence of the tapered dronefly, Eristalis pertinax (Scopoli, 1763). Wellcome Open Research, 6
Hawkes W, Wotton K, Lab UOOAWWGA, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Consortium DTOL (2021). The genome sequence of the tapered dronefly, Eristalis pertinax (Scopoli, 1763). Wellcome Open Research, 6
Hawkes W, Wotton K, Smith M, University of Oxford and Wytham Woods Genome Acquisition Lab, Natural History Museum Genome Acquisition Lab, Darwin Tree of Life Barcoding collective, Wellcome Sanger Institute Tree of Life programme, Wellcome Sanger Institute Scientific Operations: DNA Pipelines collective, Tree of Life Core Informatics collective, Darwin Tree of Life Consortium, et al (2021). The genome sequence of the two-banded wasp hoverfly, <i>Chrysotoxum bicinctum</i> (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome open research, 6 Abstract.
Hawkes W, Wotton K, Smith M, Lab UOOAWWGA, Lab NHMGA, collective DTOLB, programme WSITOL, collective WSISODP, collective TOLCI, Consortium DTOL, et al (2021). The genome sequence of the two-banded wasp hoverfly, Chrysotoxum bicinctum (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 6
Gao B, Wotton KR, Hawkes WLS, Menz MHM, Reynolds DR, Zhai B-P, Hu G, Chapman JW (2020). Adaptive strategies of high-flying migratory hoverflies in response to wind currents. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287(1928), 20200406-20200406. Abstract.
Doyle T, Hawkes WLS, Massy R, Powney GD, Menz MHM, Wotton KR (2020). Pollination by hoverflies in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287(1927), 20200508-20200508. Abstract.
Wotton KR, Boya G, Menz M, Morris R, Ball S, Lim K, Reynolds D, Hu G, Chapman J (2019). Mass Seasonal Migrations of Hoverflies Provide Extensive Pollination and Crop Protection Services. Current Biology, 29(13), 2167-2173.
Menz MHM, Reynolds DR, Gao B, Hu G, Chapman JW, Wotton KR (2019). Mechanisms and Consequences of Partial Migration in Insects. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7
Menz M, Brown B, Wotton KR (2019). Quantification of migrant hoverfly movements (Diptera: Syrphidae) on the West Coast of North America. Royal Society Open Science, 6
Verd B, Clark E, Wotton K, Janssens H, Jimenez-Guri E, Crombach A, Jaeger J (2018). A damped oscillator imposes temporal order on posterior gap gene expression in Drosophila. PLoS Biology
Jimenez-Guri E, Wotton KR, Jaeger J (2018). tarsal-less is expressed as a gap gene but has no gap gene phenotype in the moth midge Clogmia albipunctata. Royal Society Open Science
Wotton KR, Alcaine-Colet A, Jaeger J, Jiménez-Guri E (2017). Non-canonical dorsoventral patterning in the moth midge Clogmia albipunctata. EvoDevo, 20178:20
Crombach A, Wotton KR, Jiménez-Guri E, Jaeger J (2016). Gap Gene Regulatory Dynamics Evolve along a Genotype Network. Mol Biol Evol, 33(5), 1293-1307. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Jiménez-Guri E, Crombach A, Cicin-Sain D, Jaeger J (2015). High-resolution gene expression data from blastoderm embryos of the scuttle fly Megaselia abdita. Sci Data, 2 Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Schubert FR, Dietrich S (2015). Hypaxial muscle: controversial classification and controversial data?. Results Probl Cell Differ, 56, 25-48. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Jiménez-Guri E, Jaeger J (2015). Maternal co-ordinate gene regulation and axis polarity in the scuttle fly Megaselia abdita. PLoS Genet, 11(3). Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Jiménez-Guri E, Crombach A, Janssens H, Alcaine-Colet A, Lemke S, Schmidt-Ott U, Jaeger J (2015). Quantitative system drift compensates for altered maternal inputs to the gap gene network of the scuttle fly Megaselia abdita. Elife, 4 Abstract.  Author URL.
Alcaine-Colet A, Wotton KR, Jimenez-Guri E (2015). Rearing the scuttle fly Megaselia scalaris (Diptera: Phoridae) on industrial compounds: implications on size and lifespan. PeerJ, 3 Abstract.  Author URL.
Cicin-Sain D, Pulido AH, Crombach A, Wotton KR, Jiménez-Guri E, Taly J-F, Roma G, Jaeger J (2015). SuperFly: a comparative database for quantified spatio-temporal gene expression patterns in early dipteran embryos. Nucleic Acids Res, 43(Database issue), D751-D755. Abstract.  Author URL.
Jiménez-Guri E, Wotton KR, Gavilán B, Jaeger J (2014). A staging scheme for the development of the moth midge Clogmia albipunctata. PLoS One, 9(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Jiménez-Guri E, García Matheu B, Jaeger J (2014). A staging scheme for the development of the scuttle fly Megaselia abdita. PLoS One, 9(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Lours-Calet C, Alvares LE, El-Hanfy AS, Gandesha S, Walters EH, Sobreira DR, Wotton KR, Jorge EC, Lawson JA, Kelsey Lewis A, et al (2014). Evolutionarily conserved morphogenetic movements at the vertebrate head-trunk interface coordinate the transport and assembly of hypopharyngeal structures. Dev Biol, 390(2), 231-246. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR (2014). Heterochronic shifts in germband movements contribute to the rapid embryonic development of the coffin fly Megaselia scalaris. Arthropod Struct Dev, 43(6), 589-594. Abstract.  Author URL.
Fernández-Jaén A, Suela J, Fernández-Mayoralas DM, Fernández-Perrone AL, Wotton KR, Dietrich S, Castellanos MDC, Cigudosa JC, Calleja-Pérez B, López-Martín S, et al (2014). Microduplication 10q24.31 in a Spanish girl with scoliosis and myopathy: the critical role of LBX. Am J Med Genet A, 164A(8), 2074-2078. Abstract.  Author URL.
Jiménez-Guri E, Huerta-Cepas J, Cozzuto L, Wotton KR, Kang H, Himmelbauer H, Roma G, Gabaldón T, Jaeger J (2013). Comparative transcriptomics of early dipteran development. BMC Genomics, 14 Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Alcaine Colet A, Jaeger J, Jimenez-Guri E (2013). Evolution and expression of BMP genes in flies. Dev Genes Evol, 223(5), 335-340. Abstract.  Author URL.
Janssens H, Crombach A, Wotton KR, Cicin-Sain D, Surkova S, Lim CL, Samsonova M, Akam M, Jaeger J (2013). Lack of tailless leads to an increase in expression variability in Drosophila embryos. Dev Biol, 377(1), 305-317. Abstract.  Author URL.
Crombach A, Wotton KR, Cicin-Sain D, Ashyraliyev M, Jaeger J (2012). Efficient reverse-engineering of a developmental gene regulatory network. PLoS Comput Biol, 8(7). Abstract.  Author URL.
Crombach A, Cicin-Sain D, Wotton KR, Jaeger J (2012). Medium-throughput processing of whole mount in situ hybridisation experiments into gene expression domains. PLoS One, 7(9). Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Shimeld SM (2011). Analysis of lamprey clustered Fox genes: insight into Fox gene evolution and expression in vertebrates. Gene, 489(1), 30-40. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Weierud FK, Juárez-Morales JL, Alvares LE, Dietrich S, Lewis KE (2009). Conservation of gene linkage in dispersed vertebrate NK homeobox clusters. Dev Genes Evol, 219(9-10), 481-496. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Weierud FK, Dietrich S, Lewis KE (2008). Comparative genomics of Lbx loci reveals conservation of identical Lbx ohnologs in bony vertebrates. BMC Evol Biol, 8 Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Mazet F, Shimeld SM (2008). Expression of FoxC, FoxF, FoxL1, and FoxQ1 genes in the dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula defines ancient and derived roles for Fox genes in vertebrate development. Dev Dyn, 237(6), 1590-1603. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, French KEM, Shimeld SM (2007). The developmental expression of foxl2 in the dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula. Gene Expr Patterns, 7(7), 793-797. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wotton KR, Shimeld SM (2006). Comparative genomics of vertebrate Fox cluster loci. BMC Genomics, 7 Abstract.  Author URL.

Conferences

Wotton KR, Mazet F, Shimeld SM (2005). Fox gene duplication in vertebrate evolution.  Author URL.

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External Engagement and Impact

Media Coverage

  • Bat activity correlated with migratory insect bioflows in the Pyrenees (2023) Royal Society Ecology and Evolution seminars
  • Bugs on the move: pollinators, pesticides and one epic migration (2022) National Geographic
  • Scientists discover key genes behind insect migrations (2022) EurekAlert
  • Tens of millions of insects travel to reach Cyprus and Europe (2022) European Scientist.
  • Observation des syrphes et des papillons de nuit à Gavarnie (2021) radio interview (in French) with Richard, Rochelle and Sian. Frequence Luz
  • The essential fly (2021) Knowable Magazine.
  • Insects move to the warmth in autumn (2020) Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German)
  • The beauty of Hoverflies (2020) BBC Farming Today (3:45) about the benifits of encouraging hoverflies onto farmland and expanded by PhD student Will Hawkes on Farmerama (33:00) as to why migratory insects are important for farmers
  • How the Insects Travel (2020) Will & Ben the Wildlife Men discuss insect migration in their podcast series. Will, a PhD student in the lab, discusses how insects travel long-distances and his life as a researcher in the field
  • Unsung heroes? How hoverflies play key pollination role (2020) ScienceX
  • In the Company of Insects (2020) Our contribution to a collection of poetry and interviews from award-winning poet Fiona Benson and sound artists Mair Bosworth and Eliza Lomas: interview about our research with me and Will Hawkes with additional poems from children about hoveflies read at the Eden project.
  • Insect swarms on Cyprus reveal incredible journeys (2020) The Guardian
  • Half a billion hoverflies migrate to the United Kingdom each year. The benefits to farmers are huge. (2019) Science
  • These Animal Migrations Are Huge — and Invisible. (2019) The New York Times.
  • Migration: Ecosystem Services Helicoptered In. (2019) Current Biology
  • Flying insects tell tales of long-distance migrations​ (2018) Science News

Research funding

  • Royal Society Enhanced Research Expenses 2022 (RF\ERE\210114)
  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship Renewal 2022 (URF\R\211003) 
  • Royal Society Research Grant 2018 (180047) 
  • NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership 2018 (NE/L002434/1)
  • Royal Society Enhancement Award 2017 (180083)
  • BBSRC Global Challenges Research Fund. 2016 (Co-I)
  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship 2016 (UF150126)
  • Marie Curie Individual Fellowship 2016 (Declined)
  • Teaching grant: Fundacio Catalunya La Pedrera 2014, 2015 & 2016 (Joves i Ciència)
  • CRG Research Grant 2014

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Teaching

I lead the Pyrenees Field Course (BIO2449) where students can visit our fieldsite and migration hotspot on the Spanish/French border. I also lecture on the genetics and physiology of migrants on the Animal Migration module (BIO3421). I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Modules

2023/24

Information not currently available


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Supervision / Group

Postdoctoral researchers

  • Eva Jimenez-Guri

Postgraduate researchers

  • Jaimie Christopher Barnes
  • Olly Poole

Research Technicians

  • Toby Doyle

Alumni

  • Kelsey Davies (co-supervisor)
  • Amy Hall
  • William Hawkes
  • Daniel Hull
  • Emma Lane
  • Richard Massy
  • Daniel Osmond
  • Edward Walliker (co-supervisor)

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Office Hours:

Fridays 9:30 to 10:30 & 12:00 to 13:00

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