Our research interests encompass a wide and diverse array of overlapping topics and approaches, but a unifying theme running through the department is the study of behavioural traits important in pre- and post-copulatory sexual selection. We study the evolution of these often sex-specific traits with a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches. For the empirical studies we conduct field and lab experiments, using insects, birds and flatworms as model species. Advanced statistical methods and analyses of literature data complement our research program, which strives to detect and test general concepts in behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology.
Sperm competition is an extremely potent selective pressure, shaping the evolution of male reproductive morphology, physiology and behaviour across a diverse range of taxa in which females mate with multiple males. Research in our department seeks to understand the evolutionary consequences of sperm competition from both a theoretical and empirical perspective. Theoretical efforts focus on predicting how males should respond to variation in female quality and sperm competition level by altering investment in relevant sperm traits. Our empirical work seeks to test these evolutionary predictions, and understand the specific adaptations to sperm competition that have arisen in the variety of model systems that we study. [Read more...]
We study the evolutionary dynamics of quantitative traits within populations as well as between recently diverged populations of the same species. We focus on sexually selected ornaments and behaviours that are involved in sexual selection. We employ pedigree analysis for quantitative genetic projects as well as molecular genetic tools to for quantifying genetic variation. Our current studies are both lab- and field-based and include work on insects and birds. [Read more...]
Anthropogenic changes of the environment represent a major challenge for organisms in natural populations across virtually all taxa and ecosystems. We are interested in whether organisms are able to cope with such changes and in the fundamental biological mechanisms underlying their response: How do phenotypic plasticity, adaptive microevolution or epigenetic effects combine and interact to enable populations to deal with human-induced changes of their natural habitats? [Read more...]
A single genotype can, in different environments, produce different phenotypes. In variable environments, such plasticity can be adaptive, giving individuals the ability to adjust to environmental changes. Because animals differ in the degree of phenotypic plasticity, we study the causes for between-individual variation - in particular in traits with high fitness consequences like reproduction and survival. In this respect, we focus on the effect of environmental cues during ontogeny on adult behavioural traits in a variety of species, as well as environmentally induced morphological changes which have an impact on reproductive success. [Read more...]
Statistics may seem like an unavoidable burden to many empiricists. Statistics, however, not only represents an indispensable tool for understanding biological processes, we actually think that it is great fun, to fine-tune experimental design and tailor statistical analysis to support researchers in drawing robust inference from their experimentation. We follow novel developments in different fields of science in order to identify and adopt novel statistical approaches to the study of ecology and evolution. Furthermore, we organize a peer discussion forum in the form of a weekly Stats Club. [Read more...]
Next seminar will take place on the 2nd June.
Hannah Dugdale will talk about: "Senescence in natural populations"
Chiara Benvenuto will be the speaker (title tba)