Thursday, October 8, 2015

Visit by US colleague Eben Gering next week: invasion biology and colour evolution of damselflies and chickens


Posted by Erik Svensson

Next week (October 12-16), our colleague Dr. Eben Gering from Michigan State University in the US will visit EXEB and the Biology Department. Some of you have already met Eben before, and he visited three years ago during the ISBE Congress in Lund 2012. Eben obtained his PhD at University of Texas (Austin), under the supervision of Prof. Molly Cummings. His thesis-research focused on mechanisms of colour polymorphism maintenance in damselflies and island biogeography. He studied the damselfly Ischnura ramburi (a congener to Ischnura elegans, which we are working on in our lab), and he performed much of his field work on Hawaii.

Currently, Eben is a postdoc at MSU, but he collaborates with a Swedish research group working on chicken genomics at Linköping University, particularly Dominic Wright. On his way to Linköping, Eben thus stops by in Lund and he will participate in our lab-meeting on Tuesday next week (announced in a separate blog post). He will give next week's Thursday seminar on October 15 (13.15) in the "Blue Hall", which will contain data about colour evoution in both damselflies and chickens and a discussion about the evolutionary and genomic consequences of feralization (the opposite of domestication).  

If you are interested in meeting with Eben and discuss his or your research, please contact me (, so we can set up a meeting. We also plan to go out for beers at least one evening (tentatively on Wednesday October 14, to "Inferno"), and everybody who wants to attend are most welcome to join in. Below follows more information and an Abstract about Eben's talk.

A tale of two invasions: rapid evolution of color polymorphism in invasive damselflies and chickens

"Darwin and Wallace each struggled to explain the variation in evolution’s color palette. In Darwin’s view, colorful ornaments were a common outcome of sexual selection, whereas Wallace ascribed them to natural selection. A century later, we recognize that both forms of selection interact in complex ways to determine color phenotypes. Here I will describe two case studies of color evolution within invasive populations. Species invasions provide unique opportunities to characterize how traits respond to novel (and often extreme) forms of selection. Surprisingly, our syntheses of historical, genetic and experimental data from invasive chickens and damselflies suggest that density-dependent selection promoted color variability in both groups via very different mechanisms. In damselflies, color polymorphism allowed females to adapt to changes in social environment that ensued invasive spread.  In chickens, plumage variation that resulted from hybridization collapsed during colonization of marginal habitats. While our understanding of these complex systems is far from complete, patterns seen thus far reveal how demographic features of biotic invasions could facilitate rapid evolution by both Darwinian and Wallacian mechanisms." 

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