This week saw the early-access publication of my new review where I discuss different experimental approaches to measuring mate choice. Mate choice is a tricky behaviour to measure, and I synthesise evidence showing how subtle differences in experimental design can have big impacts on how animals behaviour, and what we measure, during mate choice experiments. It's also my first single-author paper, and took a long time to write- the first draft was written back in 2015!
Last month I attended the European Society for Evolutionary Biology biennial conference in Turku, Finland. The conference was excellent, especially the sessions on sexual conflict, experimental evolution and social behaviour. I also presented the recent results of my meta-analysis examining context-dependent mate choice in animals (currently in prep), which was well recieved despite being in the last session on the last day! Below is a photo of my talk in progress, kindly provided by Emily Burdfield-Steel.
This week saw the publication of a study from myself, Andrea Dewhurst and Zen Lewis in the Journal of Ethology, looking at male mate choice in the Indian meal moth. We tested whether male mating behaviour or mate choice has evolved in response to experimental manipulation of the population sex ratio for over 130+ generations. Surpisingly, it seems like it hasn't, though our results suggest that male (pre-copulatory) choice is weak in this species, which might explain the lack of evolutionary response across populations. The paper is online now and open access.
This week saw the online publication of a collaboration with Leigh Simmons and Kath McNamara (University of Western Australia), and Nina Wedell (University of Exeter) in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. In the paper we used X-Ray micro CT scanning to examine the evolution of female reproductive morphology of the Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella: the female reproductive tract is lined with sharp teeth, which are thought to aid in the digestion of the tough male sperm package. In the paper we test whether the shape of these teeth has diverged in populations with varying levels of sexual conflict over mating rate.
Follow this link for a recent paper from the Shuker lab (University of St Andrews) examining the genetics and fitness consequences of a pale mutation in the normally brightly-coloured seed bug Lygaeus simulans. I was involved in the early stages of this project, generating initial pure-breeding populations of the pale morph, but Vicki Balfour has done the hard work figuring out all the rest!
A piece I wrote about my research is now available on the Leverhulme Trust website, in the grants in focus section (link here). The piece gives a very brief overview of my current research focus- context-dependent mate choice.
This week one of my X-Ray micro-CT images of mating seed beetles was published in Molecular Reproduction and Development, in the VISIONS: the art of science category. This image has not previously been published in a journal article, though it was made at the same time as those seen in my recent Proceedings B paper.
The image is of a mating pair of seed beetles flash-frozen during mating. In this reconstruction, the cuticle was made semi-transparent in order to visualise the internal anatomy. Notable structures include the highly-stained leg and wing muscles in both sexes, as well as the female reproductive tract (the circular structure inside the female abdomen) with the male sperm package being deposited.
This week my collaboration with Lauren Guillette from the University of Alberta has just been published online here (and see the publications page for a pdf). In the paper we use meta-analysis to test whether there is a relationship between learning ability and several personality traits (including boldness, exploration, aggression and sociability) across a range of animal species (though mainly fish, birds and mammals). The work is part of a special issue called: ‘Causes and consequences of individual differences in cognitive abilities’, which includes 14 other empirical and review papers on a range of topics relating to animal cognition. They're all worth a look!
This week I attended the European Conference for Behavioural Biology in Liverpool. The conference was great; there were plenty of good talks and I met some very interesting people! I also presented a poster (see below), describing the results of an experiment using the Indian meal moth I have been running for the last few months.
I'm very excited to have been awarded an Early Career Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust and the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool. I'll take up the fellowship in September 2018, and I plan to use meta-analysis to examine which physical and social factors influence mate choice across animals. I can't wait to get started!