Research

RESEARCH INTERESTS

My research interests are in the field of evolutionary ecology, especially in ageing and senescence, life-history trade-offs, why these trade-offs often differ between the sexes, and what this means for the evolution of optimal strategies within the sexes, and ultimately, for the variation in phenotypes we see all around us.

By combining life-history theory, sexual conflict theory and nutritional ecology I aim to better understand the complex relationship between the outcome of sex-specific sexual and natural selection. I am using experimental and theoretical approaches to study these questions on the phenotypic and genetic level.


SYDNEY | UNSW | AUSTRALIA

I’m excited to be back at UNSW, working with Russell Bonduriansky on transgenerational effects of nutrition and stressful environments in fruit flies. I was also collaborating with my wife Susi Zajitschek, Shinichi Nakagawa, and other members of the E&ERC, on a meta-analytic analysis of sex differences in allometry.

MELBOURNE | MONASH | AUSTRALIA

Working with Tim Connallon at Monash University gave me the opportunity to learn to formulate my ideas and questions around life-history evolution in species with two sexes in a more formal way, using population and quantitative genetic models. This is something I always wanted to add to my toolbox as an evolutionary biologist, in order to be able to articulate my research questions very precisely and to get testable quantitative predictions. My theoretical explorations were accompanied by experimental work on age-dependent changes in sexual conflict over total fitness in the good old fruit fly, and on a lizard species, the poetically named rainbow skink (Lampropholis delicata), which seems to have a very intriguing way of sexually dimorphic trait expression, with the opportunity to test for sex-dependent dominance.

WASHINGTON D.C. | GWU | USA

My work with Mollie Manier at the Department of Biological Sciences of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., centered around two topics.

First, I studied sexual conflict through antagonistic alleles for male sperm lengths and female reproductive tract morphology, using D. melanogaster artificial selection lines, selected for short and long sperm cells, and for short and long seminal receptacles, the primary sperm storage organ in female fruit flies.

Second, I worked on transgenerational effects of diet and age on postcopulatory sexual selection. These studies involved differential gene expression studies using RNA-Seq.

UPPSALA | EBC | SWEDEN

At the Evolutionary Biology Centre of the University of Uppsala, I worked on diet effects on life history and aging in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. This included experiments on the interaction between reproduction and low or high yeast diet, acting on age-dependent mortality and reproductive patterns, up into the very late life phase. To study the longer-term evolutionary consequences of extreme diets during adulthood, I set up experimental evolution lines in mixed-sex population cages which had time to evolve since late 2012, but have been terminated in 2017.

I also worked on the integration between laboratory and field studies, especially in invertebrate species (think about the lack of field studies on D. melanogaster, that could complement the vast number of studies conducted in the lab).

MOULIS | CNRS | FRANCE

I worked on the maintenance of the color polymorphism in European wall lizards, Podarcis muralis, and on dispersal strategies in the Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) at the Station d’Ecologie Expérimentale du CNRS à Moulis. In 2010, we started to use a new experimental facility, called the Metatron, which consists of 48 cages (10x10m) that are connected by 20-meter-long corridors (link to an article in a French newspaper about it). Corridors can be opened and closed individually to create self-contained systems of connected cages, and environmental temperature and humidity conditions within cages can be manipulated. These features allow testing for dispersal decisions and strategies of individual common lizards, and how these are affected by interactions with other population members, e.g. through population density, relatedness, or individual personality traits.

A paper describing this facility and its first experimental data on lizards and butterflies in detail can be found here: Metatron, Nature Methods

The first 24 metapopulation cages at Caumont, 2010
Metatron at Caumont, 12 km from Moulis

 

LINKS to some present and past COLLABORATORS

  • Megan Head – Sex-specific aging in beetles
  • Krish Sanghvi – Sex-specific aging in beetles
  • Timothy Connallon – Population genetics of sexual dimorphism
  • Mollie Manier – Sexual conflict over reproductive traits, Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance
  • Fernando Colchero – Bayesian estimation of age-specific mortality
  • Alexei Maklakov – Sexual conflict, dietary restriction and aging
  • Susanne Zajitschek – haplotype selection in zebrafish, Condition-dependent dispersal and temperature-dependent performance in lizards, Population effects of inbreeding in guppies
  • Russell Bondurianky – Ageing and quantitative genetics in natural insect populations
  • Jean Clobert – Consequences of personality traits and dispersal variability on meta-population dynamics; sibling dispersal; maintenance of color polymorphism
  • Ruth Archer – Sexual conflict over aging in decorated crickets
  • Don Miles – Physiological performance in lizards
  • Rob Brooks– Genetic architecture underlying aging, dietary restriction, aging in the wild
  • Simon Lailvaux – Sex-effects of mating and diet on performance and demography
  • John Hunt – Maintenance of genetic variation, dietary restriction, demography, aging
  • Hwei-yen Chen – Late-life mortality plateaus in nematodes
  • Matt Hall– Statistics of non-normal longitudinal data
  • Mike Jennions – Dietary restriction, genetic architecture underlying aging
  • Chad Brassil – Mathematical modeling of aging in natural populations
  • Steve Simpson’s lab – Geometric framework of feeding and nutrition