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Evolution & Systematics
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.
Evolutionary innovations are scattered throughout the tree of life, and have allowed the organisms that possess them to occupy novel adaptative zones. While the impacts of these innovations are well-documented, much less is known about how these innovations arise in the first place. Patterns of covariation among traits across macroevolutionary timescales can offer insights into the generation of innovation. However, to-date, there is no consensus on the role that trait covariation (i.e. integration and modularity) plays in this process.
Macroevolutionary studies of trait evolution are incomplete without the integration of speciation and extinction rates. The frequency of a character state on the tips of a phylogenetic tree is not only the result of the trait change per se but is also a function of lineage diversification if the character state is linked to speciation and extinction rates. In this talk, I will show three different examples of trait evolution linked to diversification.
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.