Centre for Evolutionary Biology

Sexual selection



Sexual selection has generated much of the spectacular diversity of form that we see in animals and plants.

We are interested in reproductive competition and conflict both within and between the sexes and the consequences these selective forces have on the phenotypic and genetic architecture of sexually selected and life-history traits, and on trait evolution.

Charles Darwin recognised that sexual selection acts both via competition among members of the same sex for access to mates, and by mating preferences. Sexual selection can thus act on both male and female traits that serve as weapons in mating competition and ornaments for attracting mates.

We are particularly interested in the benefits individuals can accrue through mate choice, which can be direct in the form of resources required for reproduction, or indirect in the form of either "good" or "compatible" genes.

Good gene models of sexual selection have been particularly problematic because of the expected loss of genetic variation following selection. Condition dependence is one of the principle mechanisms thought to explain the maintenance of genetic variation in sexually selected and life-history traits.

Our research includes studies of the quantitative genetic architecture of condition and condition dependence, and how mutations throughout the genome affect the acquisition and allocation of resources. We also research the effects that limiting resources such as nutrients, vitamins and carotenoids have on the expression of sexually selected and life-history traits.

Our approaches vary from understanding the acoustic or chemical signals that communicate information within and between the sexes, through aspects of morphological variation that promote reproductive success. We conduct both within species studies, and comparative studies across species.

We study these aspects of sexual selection in a range of species, from prehistoric vertebrates like Dimetrodon, to native species like the ornate dragon lizard, Western Australian rainbowfish, frogs and a range of broadcast spawning marine invertebrates. We also make extensive use of model species, including vertebrates such as humans, poeciliid fishes and house mice, and invertebrates such as bees, crickets, seed beetles, dung beetles, earwigs, Drosophila and acarid mites.


Centre for Evolutionary Biology

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Last updated:
Friday, 17 July, 2015 4:27 PM