Transposable elements, also known as 'transposons' or 'jumping genes', are sequences of parasitic DNA that exist within host genomes. Their defining characteristic is that they are mobile and can transpose to new locations within the host genome. Most genomes contain a substantial proportion of transposons, but we still have lots to learn about transposon origins and evolution, and their importance for host function and evolution.

Many transposon insertions are harmful to the host, and so are silenced or purged from the genome. But over the course of millions of years of evolution, transposons have played a considerable role in host evolution, contributing to the vast diversity and complexity of life on Earth. Impressive examples of this are transposon sequences utilised by host genomes for adaptations underlying important functions such as immunity, internal gestation (pregnancy), and memory.

Much remains to be understood about the contributions that transposons have made to biodiversity and the evolution of host complexity. Meanwhile, research on the detection, evolution, host distribution, and transmission of transposons remains at a relatively early stage, with a huge diversity of transposon remaining to be discovered in currently unsequenced host genomes.

The Hayward lab leverages the massive amounts of genomic data available to address fundamental questions on host-transposon interactions and transposon dynamics, such as:

● What contributions have transposons made to biodiversity?

● What factors influence transposon host range and spread?

● What are the relationships within major lineages of transposon diversity?

● How important are transposons during the domestication process?

● What is the relevance of transposons for disease?