INSECT EVOLUTIONARY ECOLOGY
Our goal is to understand how evolutionary conflicts of interest shape animal lives. We use insects to investigate how conflict between mates, family members and social partners influences adaptation - in behaviour, morphology, life history, gene expression and molecular phenotypes.
Currently recruiting! Please get in touch about studentships and postdoctoral positions.
NERC Independent Research Fellow
How does evolutionary conflict shape animal phenotypes?
Affiliated Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Gonçalo is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. He's investigating how sexual selection and kin selection interact during evolution, using mathematical theory. Check out his personal website.
MSc Molecular Medicine
Bouke's project asks whether male fruit flies can gain from influencing female diet choice.
AMALIA HERRERA GRAU
Lia is studying the consequences of mating for diet choice in male fruit flies.
Yasmin studied vibrational signalling behaviour during aggressive contests between male fruit flies.
Luke used citizen science data to tackle the question of how UK ladybird phenology has changed in recent decades. Luke was co-supervised by Prof Helen Roy.
Boyang studied approaches to analyzing behavioural data on interactions between two individuals for her MSc in Statistical Science at the U of Oxford, cosupervised by Christl Donnelly.
Soumya studied how male fruit flies express their genes differently in response to interacting with kin and with females, a summer research project as part of her Integrated Masters degree at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali
Rebecca studied sexual coevolution in water striders for her final year project.
UNIQ+ project student
Ellie studied diet choice in drosophilids for her summer lab project.
Sam has moved on to a PhD at the University of Copenhagen, but is still involved in writing a manuscript about his studies of signalling behaviour in water striders.
EVOLUTIONARY CONFLICT OVER ANIMAL NUTRITION AND DIET CHOICE
We want to understand how mating impacts nutritional state, and how evolutionary conflict shapes maternal diet choice and nutrition. We are investigating responses to diet in whole-organism phenotypes and molecular metabolomic phenotypes. We're asking these questions using fruit flies.
SEXUAL CONFLICT IN ECOLOGICAL CONTEXT
We are studying how ecological variation influences a sexual arms race in water striders.
Congratulations to Yasmin, who finished her MSci and received a 1st, woohoo! Her project was titled 'Investigating vibrational signalling during male-male aggression in Drosophila melanogaster.'
ESCAPING THE CHOOSINESS TRAP
Ben Hopkins and I wrote a News & Views about a terrific new study in Nature Ecology & Evolution, by Philip Kohlmeier, Jean-Christophe Billeter & colleagues. How can females avoid the choosiness trap? They need to be choosy enough to find the most superior males around, yet not set their standards so high that they reject all suitors. Our News & Views summary is available here - do email me for a pdf if it's paywalled for you.
HANGRY FRUIT FLIES: OUR NEW PAPER IS OUT
Fruit flies: they're just like us. In this paper, the second from Dani's PhD, we show that being deprived of food makes male fruit flies more aggressive to each other. The paper is fully open access in Animal Behaviour here.
Dani was interviewed about it on BBC Breakfast TV, and it was covered in news outlets including these ones:
and in science news for kids at CBBC Newsround
CONGRATULATIONS DR EDMUNDS!
18 March 2021
Very big congratulations to Dani, who defended her PhD! She got the most minor of minor corrections.
CEEC TWITTER CONFERENCE TALK
24 March 2021
I gave a twitter talk (my first!) as part of UEA's Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation's twitter conference. I covered our recent work on aggression: its plasticity, microevolution and macroevolution
NEW PAPER: EXPERIMENTAL EVOLUTION OF AGGRESSION
17 March 2021
First paper from Dani's PhD! How are male and female aggression shaped by the intensity of local competition? We evolved flies under male-biased, female-biased, or equal sex ratios, and found that environments with more competition within a sex led to the evolution of more frequent aggression displayed by that sex. Open access publication at https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.3053
TWO STUDENTS JOIN THE GROUP
Yasmin Ahmed and Rachel Loos-Bennett have joined the group. I'm super excited to work with them!
Luke successfully presented his MSc research and completed his dissertation. He documented shifts in phenology in UK ladybirds over recent decades in ways consistent with the UK's changing climate.
NEW PAPER: SEX, MATING AND ANXIETY
4 July 2020
‘Sex peptide’ – a male seminal protein in fruit flies – has big effects on many aspects of female behaviour, including things like aggression, sleep and memory formation. We wondered if sex peptide also regulates female anxiety. Fruit flies are a useful model for studying anxiety, so understanding how male and female anxiety is regulated in these animals might help us understand human anxiety and why anxiety is more common in women than in men.
Jess Thomson tackled this question for her undergraduate project. She used a standard assay of anxious behaviour: the extent to which individuals stick to the perimeter when they’re moving around their environment. It turns out that anxious individuals are more likely do this, in flies, rodents, humans and other animals. In our study, we found no evidence that males and females differed in their anxious behaviour, and no evidence that is influenced by either mating or sex peptide.
These results tell us that anxiety is not part of the big shift in behaviour that occurs after mating in female fruit flies. They also tell us that we need a different animal model to study sex differences in anxiety.
Fully open access in Animal Behaviour!
PHD PROJECT AVAILABLE
Application deadline: 7 Jan 2020 (noon)
We've got a funded PhD position available through the ARIES DTP.
How do UK ladybirds respond to the double whammy of invasive ladybirds + climate change? Come and help find the answers.
Informal enquiries are very welcome!
BLOG POST: SUMMER IN THE FLY LAB
17 Oct 2019
It was super hosting UNIQ+ student Ellie Jarvis for her project on flies, mating and diet. She's written a blog post about her summer of fun with flies.
WE ARE MOVING!
15 Sep 2019
CONGRATULATIONS TO BOYANG!
9 Sep 2019
Boyang submitted her MSc report evaluating modelling approaches for dyadic contest data.
FLY LAB SUMMER 2019
18 July 2019
The Oxford Zoology Fly Lab, jointly run with co-conspirator Stu Wigby, of summer 2019. Such a wonderful bunch.
Left to right: Dani, Rachel, Lucy, Ellie J., Stu, Irem, Ben, Ellie B., Jinlin, Thomas & Jen
TWO NEW STUDENTS JOIN THE GROUP
1 July 2019
A gigantic welcome to two new students.
Boyang Hu is completing her MSc in applied statistics and is working out robust ways to analyze dyadic contest data. Boyang is cosupervised by Christl Donnelly.
Ellie Jarvis is here for a summer research project as part of the UNIQ+ programme. Ellie is studying diet choice in several drosophilids.
NEW SEASON, NEW STUDENTS
15 May 2019
A big enthusiastic welcome to Austin, Joe, Julia and Rebecca, joining the lab for their undergraduate projects.
PHD PROJECT AVAILABLE
Application deadline 28 May 2019
How do UK ladybirds respond to the double whammy of invasive ladybirds + climate change? PhD position available - come and help find the answers.
Informal enquiries welcome - email Jen
NEW PAPER OUT
In this study, we tested the idea that a higher female mating rate changes how sexual selection acts on males. We used fruit flies where females were genetically engineered to mate more often, such that we could experimentally control mating rate. We found that sexual selection was indeed changed by how often females mated. When they mated more, selection shifted to be stronger on post-copulatory traits that help males achieve fertilization, and weaker on pre-copulatory traits that help males achieve mating.
PHD PROJECTS AVAILABLE
Application deadline 25 Jan 2019
Three projects available. Please get in touch to discuss other projects of mutual interest.
Explore the extent of evolutionary conflict between females, males and offspring over maternal diet, and the consequences of conflict for what mothers eat.
Cosupervised by Stuart Wigby.
This project will investigate how diet composition and mating rate interact to affect molecular nutritional condition, measured through metabolomic profiling.
Cosupervised by Stuart Wigby.
This studentship will investigate effects of climate change on native ladybird behaviour and physiology, and how these effects impact interactions with the invasive Harlequin ladybird.
SAM EDWARDS JOINS THE GROUP
Sam will examine how water striders send and receive signals through the water surface.