January 12, 2021
A "Joint Special Feature" in "Methods in Ecology and Evolution" and the "Journal of Animal Ecology" on Animal Social Networks has been published. I contributed to this special feature with a methods paper on the estimation of genetic effects of social network traits. I used latent variable modelling to overcome issues inherent to traits derived from social networks.
June 12, 2020
The second meta-analysis by Dan Noble, Tobias Uller and I, on plastic responses to novel environments is out in Evolution Letters! Animals and plants are inherently responsive to their environments. Such "plasticity" can evolve, which explains why, for example, plants that grow in shade develop large leaves; modifying leaf size helps the plants to capture the right amount of light. While it is uncontroversial that responses to the environment can be adaptive, it is debated whether or not plasticity also directs genetic evolution. Here, we analyze data from 34 studies of plasticity and local adaptation in plants to test if this is the case. Our results strongly suggest that locally adapted traits are modified versions of ancestrally plastic responses, making plasticity appear to "take the lead" in adaptive evolution. The immediate responses to the environment were sometimes more extreme than the phenotypes of locally adapted plants, which can give the false impression that plasticity and evolutionary adaptation oppose each other; in fact, truly maladaptive plasticity was rare. While the signature of plasticity persists during local adaptation, trait combinations could be modified independently of plasticity during genetic evolution. It thus appears that plasticity is an important source of adaptive developmental bias in plant evolution, which may facilitate rather than hinder adaptation.
June 20, 2019
The meta-analysis by Dan Noble, Tobias Uller and I, on plastic responses to novel environments is out in PNAS! Theory suggests that populations can evolve by genetic modification of environmentally induced responses. We demonstrate that such plastic responses to novel environments tend to occur along trait dimensions that have high genetic variation. This suggests that selection for or against environmentally induced phenotypes typically will be effective. That organisms respond to environmental novelty and genetic variation in similar ways can be explained by how development is wired. This makes it challenging to distinguish if plasticity or genetic constraints shape evolutionary responses following environmental change.
November 20, 2018
Our paper on maternal effects in waterfleas is out! Waterfleas are negatively affected by toxic cyanobacteria, and therefore, mothers are expected to mitigate the negative effects to their offspring. We use a series of experiments to test whether these beneficial maternal effects represent an inheritance system evolved to transmit information about the toxicity of the environment. Our results and metaâanalysis of previous work suggest that although there can be fitness benefits of having a mother exposed to cyanobacteria, these effects are unlikely to be a result of selection for a mechanism that enables transmission of information across generations.
October 30, 2017
Our paper about the social and spatial effects on genetic variation between foraging flocks is out!
July 13, 2017
The review of the international workshop on "Genetics and Development of Cooperation" held in Bern (Switzerland) last year is out.
The meeting aimed at discussing the current progress in this research field and suggesting avenues for future research.
In the review we use the major themes of the meeting to synthesize the concepts of development and genetic and non-genetic inheritance of cooperation,
to better understand how cooperation evolves and manifests itself in nature.
May 21, 2017
This month I start with an exciting new project on the relative importance of developmental bias on evolution. More on this on my research page.
February 10, 2014
The paper "No evidence for MHC class I based disassortative mating in a wild population of great tits" is online. MHC genes - which are important to the immune system -
are expected to affect mate preference, because either mates with good or complementary MHC genes would be beneficial for the immunocompetence of the offspring. We did not find any evidence that great tits
selected their mates on basis of MHC genes, even not when correcting for the fact that great tits finds their mates locally.
October 26, 2014
Our (but mainly Antica's) meta analysis on divorce in monogamous birds is published online. Divorce turns out to be an adaptive strategy, because it
is triggered by low breeding success and remating improves breeding success.
October 3, 2014
The book "Animal social networks" edited by Jens Krause, Richard James, Daniel Franks, and Darren Croft is available from December onwards. This book provides
an overview of the insights that network analysis has provided into major biological processes, and how it has enhanced our understanding of the social organisation of several important taxonomic groups.
It brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines with the aim of providing both an overview of the power of the network approach for understanding patterns and process in animal populations,
as well as outlining how current methodological constraints and challenges can be overcome. This book features our (Colin Garroway, Camilla Hinde and me) chapter on "Perspectives on social network analyses of bird populations"!
April 23, 2014
The birds of the Wytham Woods study population have started breeding again. Read all about it on the Wytham tits twitter page.
December 3, 2013
The special section in Evolution on evolutionary landscape genetics is published in print this month, including our paper on the genetic structure in the Wytham great tit population: Fine-scale genetic structure in a wild bird population: the role of limited dispersal and environmentally-based selection as causal factors.