Sunday, February 1, 2015

Labmeeting about neotropical biology in Guyana and genomics in the Czech Republic

Posted by Erik Svensson (all photographs above taken i Guyana in January 2015)

On lab-meeting this coming week, we were thinking that we shall not discuss any paper, but rather those of us who have been away (me, Beatriz and Katie) should talk a little bit about our expeditions to Guyana i South America and the Czech Republic, respectively. 

I hope to be able to process some of my many nature photographs from mine and Beatriz odonate research expedition, so that I can show them at the lab-meeting. Above is a slight teaser. Hopefully, I will have more on Tuesday. And Katie will tell us about what she learned in the genomics workshop and thoughts about the future and what she can use her new skills to do.

Any fika volunteer?

Time: Tuesday, February 3, at 10.30
Location: "Argumentet", 2nd floor, Ecology Building

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cope's rule and the evolution of body size in Pinnipedimorpha (Mammalia: Carnivora)

For Tuesday, We are reading about Seal-body-size evolution. 

Cope's rule describes the evolutionary trend in animal lineages to Increase in body size overtime. In this study, we tested the validity of Cope's rule for a Marine Mammal clade, the Pinnipedimorpha, Which includes the extinct Desmatophocidae, and extant Phocidae (earless seals), Otariidae (fur seals and sea lions), and Odobenidae (walruses). We tested for the presence of Cope's rule by Compiling a large dataset of body size data for extant and fossil pinnipeds And Then Examined how body size evolved through time. We found thatthere was a positive relationship between geologic age and body size. However, this trend is the result of differences between early assemblages of small-bodied pinnipeds (Oligocene to early Miocene) and later assemblages (middle Miocene to Pliocene) for Which species exhibited Greater size diversity. No significant differences were found between the number of Increases or decreases in body size within Pinnipedimorpha or within specified pinniped clades. This Suggests That the pinniped body size Increase was driven by passive diversification into vacant niche space, with the common ancestor of Pinnipedimorpha Occurring near the minimum adult body size possible for a Marine Mammal. Based upon the above results, the evolutionary history of pinnipeds Does not follow Cope's rule.

The argument 10:30 on Tuesday Jan. 27.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Good Genes and Sexual Selection in Dung Beetles

Onthophagus taurus male and female comparison.jpg
"Onthophagus taurus male and female comparison" by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
Posted by Jessica Abbott for Jessica Åhlén-Sandblom 

This article by Garcia-Gonzalez and Simmons focus on the importance of the good genes model in female mate choice. 
One founding component of sexual selection is the existence of heritable variation in fitness. The good genes model tells us that this variance in quality is expressed phenotypically in the males and that females base their mate choice upon a trait that represent the male's good genes. 
The dung beetle has shown condition dependence of sexually selected traits and genetic correlations between preference and trait, thus comes the logical next step to see if the fitness of the father is inherited to the offspring.
Here they do a quantitative genetic analysis with a full-sib/half-sib design to compare the additive genetic effect of father on egg to adult and adult viability between families (one male mated with three females). 
They found a significant effect of the father for egg to adult viability and survival of sons but not daughters to adult age and no indication for sexual antagonism in genetic variation for fitness.
The authors argue for pre- and post-copulatory choice from females and competition between males to give the female indirect benefit in terms of higher offspring fitness in agreement with the good genes model.

Although this is not my current topic of research, I decided to share this article with you for three reasons. 
First of all, I have the possibility to do a similar project with Leigh Simmons (one of the authors) as my supervisor in the future, second because it relates with my ongoing project since they investigate paternally inherited fitness in a quantitative genetic study with a full-sib/half-sib breeding design and also discuss sexual antagonism briefly. And last, because it is short and neat (only 4 pages).

See you on Tuesday!
Jessica Åhlén Sandblom

Abstract: Whether species exhibit significant heritable variation in fitness is central for sexual selection. According to good genes models there must be genetic variation in males leading to variation in offspring fitness if females are to obtain genetic benefits from exercising mate preferences, or by mating multiply. However, sexual selection based on genetic benefits is controversial, and there is limited unambiguous support for the notion that choosy or polyandrous females can increase the chances of producing offspring with high viability. Here we examine the levels of additive genetic variance in two fitness components in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus. We found significant sire effects on egg-to-adult viability and on son, but not daughter, survival to sexual maturity, as well as moderate coefficients of additive variance in these traits. Moreover, we do not find evidence for sexual antagonism influencing genetic variation for fitness. Our results are consistent with good genes sexual selection, and suggest that both pre- and postcopulatory mate choice, and male competition could provide indirect benefits to females.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Tobias is looking for three new postdocs and one lab manager to join the team!

I am currently recruiting people to join my group. To see what projects we currently work on, please visit my homepage.

There are now three postdoctoral positions available (described here and here) and one position as lab manager (will be advertised here shortly, please contact me if you want information).

Postdoc on sexual selection and introgression

The first position is a 2+1 year postdoc to study sexual selection and genomic introgression in wall lizards (funded by the Swedish Research Council). Over the past years we have done a lot of ground work to establish the causes of, and hence predictions for, the extent and direction of hybridization between divergent wall lizard lineages. The next step is to test these predictions in different hybrid contexts; in native hybrid zones and in several regions of secondary contact resulting from human translocations of the species within Europe.

Wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) from western Europe (left photos) are hybridizing with wallies from Italy (right photos). 

We are now looking for a highly motivated postdoc with experience of analysis of highthroughput sequencing data and with an interest in applying these tools to fundamental questions in evolutionary ecology. You could, for example, have done a PhD and/or postdoc in molecular ecology, evolutionary genomics, or phylogeography. With the freezer full of samples it is all ready to go, but there will be plenty of opportunities for field work as well (Italy, France, Germany, England...).

Field locations in Italy. Yes, most of our sites are like this.

Two Postdocs in Eco-Evo-Devo

I am also advertising two 2-year postdoc scholarships. These are intended to enable early career researchers to develop interesting, cutting-edge, research projects together with us. The positions therefore provide a lot of academic freedom - together we design a project that we feel is really exciting and that breaks new ground. Maybe something that truly advances our understanding of the role of development in evolution or that fit nicely within eco-evo-devo? Lizards, Daphnia, or maybe bring your own system? The funding for these scholarships and the research comes from my Wallenberg Academy Award.

Please apply if you are interested in our work, have the necessary skills and background, and if you you want to join a highly creative environment where we strive for both conceptual and empirical advances. For informal contact or questions, please send me an email. 

We like to work on lizards (currently Wallies, Egernia, Anolis) and Daphnia but are happy to discuss alternative systems as well. (Photo credits to Ben Halliwell and Stew Plaistow)

Lab Manager/Research Assistant

Finally, I am looking for a highly skilled and motivated lab manager/research assistant who want to be involved in the day-to-day running of the research group. This is a creative, flexible, and varied job as an important member of the research team, but without the expectation to independently secure funding and design and execute research projects. Tasks may involve assistance during data collection in the field, animal or molecular laboratory, support for data extraction, handling and statistical analyses, and coordination and management of the group's daily routines, including animal husbandry and administrative support.

If you have an MSc or PhD in a relevant area of biology and want a highly varied and creative job with plenty of responsibility this may be the perfect position for you. Our research involves field work, captive animals, and molecular analyses. What proportion of time you will spend on these depends on your background and interest, but we hope that you want to get involved in our research in many ways and take opportunities to learn new skills. The details of the position will appear here soon, but if you want to know more straight away please contact me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New EXEB year 2015!


Posted by Erik Svensson

On behalf of myself and all EXEB members, I wish us all a Happy New 2015, and I hope it will be a succesful as 2014 was. Here, I briefly summarize my own subjective impressions of the past year and speculate a little bit about the future.

2014 was very dynamic and a lot of positive things happened. Maren Wellenreuther and Machteld Verzijden got new jobs and moved to Denmark and New Zeeland, respectively. Tobias Uller started his position in Lund on 50 %, while finishing his position in Oxford. Viktor Nilsson-Örtman and Katie Duryea both got postdoctoral scholarships, from The Swedish Research Council (VR) and The National Science Foundation (NSF) and thus joined EXEB. Beatriz Willink started as a PhD-position in August. Thus, both influx and outflux in terms of members, and currently Tobias is in the process of recruiting several postdocs, so I anticipate that the EXEB meetings will be enriched by new faces with interesting new backgrounds soon.

In terms of major research grants, it has also been a succesful year. Both Jessica and I got grants from the Crafoord Foundation this spring, and Tobias got a three-year grant from the Swedish Research Council in November. It is if course very satisfying to get these grants, given the stiff competition and small margins these days, as they also help us to do the research we really want to do.

Publication-wise, it has also been a good year, with articles appearing in many good journals. For me and Jessica, perhaps the highlight was our PNAS-article about sexual selection on Wing Interference Patterns (WIP:s) in Drosophila melanogaster, and all the media attention it got. Tobias and his co-workers made a splash in Nature in October this year with their provocative essay "Does evolutionary theory need a rethink?", which also resulted in a discussion on this blog.

What about 2015 and the future? I am optimistic in both the short- and the long-term. I feel that we have been able to build a creative space for us as PI:s and for our students and postdocs and that we have an excellent platform to strengthen evolutionary biology in Lund within our department. It is now almost five years since the Department of Biology in Lund was formed as a merger between two old departments: The Department of Ecology and the Department of Cell- and Organismal Biology (COB). Evolutionary biology has, for several complex and historical reasons, not had a very strong visible profile in Lund.

The reasons for this historical neglect of evolutionary biology in Lund are both structural and a result of strong  and very biased personal opinions by past and some current leaders of our department. For several reasons (I strongly disagree with these views, however), evolutionary biology has not been percceived as a "real" or independent research field in Lund. Worse, it has sometimes even been dismissed by some with the argument that "everybody does evolutionary biology" or even "we should leave evolutionary biology to Uppsala instead, it is they who have an Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC)".

Needless to say, I think these views are both wrong and outdated, but their existence points to some of the problems that we have ahead of us if we want to strengthen the evolutionary biology profile in Lund. I feel that it is more or less futile to try to convince the leadership at the department as a whole that evolutionary biology should become of one of Lund's profile research areas, because conservatism tends to increase up along the career ladder.

Instead, we need to build from below, by setting a good example: by recruiting excellent postdocs and PhD-students (which we do already have), by getting grants and by publishing our research in excellent high-quality scientific journals. Then, and only then, can we influence the department at the higher level and force the leadership to admit that evolutionary biology is indeed an independent and interesting research field in itself that deserves some higher recognition than it currently has got. And to achieve this goal, we should try to keep EXEB what it is already: an intellectually very dynamic research environment where we regularly meet and discuss science and exchange idéas, co-supervise students and postdocs and share equipment, skills and knowledge.

We should of course always be aware of the competition with other groups - both from within the department and from outside - but also do not hesitate to collaborate with other groups, such as the Theoretical and Population Ecology Group or Molecular Ecology and Evolution Laboratory, when it can help us to achieve our long-term goals to influence the Biology Department and strengthen evolutionary biology in Lund. 

Thankyou all for a very nice 2014 and see you again in 2015!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Next week I thought we should reflect on how "learning-like" processes in development shape, and is shaped by, the evolution of plasticity.

A very useful and interesting entry to this literature is the following review by Emilie Snell-Rood (Abstract below):

We will meet as usual in Argumentet at 10.30 on Tuesday, Dec 16. I will bring fika but you don't need to worry because I won't bake it myself.

Selective Processes in Development: Implications for the Costs and Benefits of Phenotypic Plasticity

Emilie C. Snell-Rood


Adaptive phenotypic plasticity, the ability of a genotype to develop a phenotype appropriate to the local environment, allows organisms to cope with environmental variation and has implications for predicting how organisms will respond to rapid, human-induced environmental change. This review focuses on the importance of developmental selection, broadly defined as a developmental process that involves the sampling of a range of phenotypes and feedback from the environment reinforcing high-performing phenotypes. I hypothesize that understanding the degree to which developmental selection underlies plasticity is key to predicting the costs, benefits, and consequences of plasticity. First, I review examples that illustrate that elements of developmental selection are common across the development of many different traits, from physiology and immunity to circulation and behavior. Second, I argue that developmental selection, relative to a fixed strategy or determinate (switch) mechanisms of plasticity, increases the probability that an individual will develop a phenotype best matched to the local environment. However, the exploration and environmental feedback associated with developmental selection is costly in terms of time, energy, and predation risk, resulting in major changes in life history such as increased duration of development and greater investment in individual offspring. Third, I discuss implications of developmental selection as a mechanism of plasticity, from predicting adaptive responses to novel environments to understanding conditions under which genetic assimilation may fuel diversification. Finally, I outline exciting areas of future research, in particular exploring costs of selective processes in the development of traits outside of behavior and modeling developmental selection and evolution in novel environments.

Friday, December 5, 2014

For next week's lab meeting we will discuss selection on body size into two groups: lizards and damselflies. 

John (me) and Katie will co-presented results from two survival-selection studies. I will give a presentation on 4 years of survival and sexual selection on damselflies, and Katie will present a manuscript for comments. The manuscript will probably be distributed through e-mail or on the facebook group.

Time and place as usual (Tuesday 10:30 in Argumentet, Ecology Building 2nd floor).