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W.T. Edmondson Endowed Lecture: Through the widow’s web; Using extreme mating behaviour to untangle plasticity

If the traits that confer increased reproductive success vary with environmental context, and information about context is available to juveniles during development, then adaptive developmental plasticity (ADP) may evolve. Here I show how male widow spiders (genus Latrodectus) are useful for testing hypotheses about ADP because their relatively short lifespans and well-documented, extreme mating behaviours allow strong predictions about how phenotypes are expected to shift under variable social contexts.

Evolution in the Age of Us: Mechanisms of adaptation to a human-modified world

Understanding the proximate (physiological/developmental) and ultimate (evolutionary) mechanisms that drive adaptive responses to human-altered environments is among the most pressing concerns of contemporary organismal biology and conservation. Human modifications to the natural world present extreme and novel environments for many species around the globe, and offer unique opportunities to study the process of evolution in real-time.


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