Category Archives: Publications

Emerging issues in the evolution of animal nuptial gifts

This week Biology Letters published a short opinion piece by Sara Lewis and colleagues (including me) on the state of play for research on nuptial gifts in animals. Substances transferred from one mating partner to another are not limited to gametes, and this piece tries to clarify the conceptual significance of this behaviour and stimulate productive future research by carefully defining what a nuptial gift is and clarifying  different categories of gifts on the basis of their source and transmission mode. The piece is described for a more popular audience here.

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 10.35.14

Hot off the press!

Edit Apr 7: added cool pictures from Ellie.

Research group alumnus Ellie Rotheray (who defended her PhD last year) has recently had yet another of her thesis chapters published in the Journal of Insect Conservation. The experiment in question involved a lot of painstaking field work marking and recapturing the rare aspen hoverfly, Hammerschmidtia ferruginea, and observing the dispersal patterns and territorial behaviour of adults.

Here's a marked fly (note the yellow dot on the  thorax) shortly after being painted

Here’s a marked Hammerschmidtia hoverfly (note the yellow dot on the thorax) shortly after being painted

 

 

 

Obligatory gratuitous sex shot. Here's why a male puts in long hours patrolling the long. Oh yeah!

Obligatory gratuitous sex shot. Here’s why a male puts in long hours patrolling the aspen log. Oh yeah!      Edit Apr 7: not a sex shot after all. This is some male-on-male action, which Ellie calls “the result of a territorial dispute”. I still think the “Oh yeah!” is appropriate.

 

 

 

Our conclusions are sometimes necessarily tentative, but in spite of this I think they provide invaluable natural history details of the kind so rarely found in modern scientific studies, but which are crucial for both fundamental life history research and applied conservation efforts. I’ve included a sample (in the form of our Fig 3) below. Comments or requests for early view reprints are most welcome!

Plots showing fitted logistic curves with 95 % confidence interval (dotted lines) for the effect of male wing (left) and thorax (right) length on probability of dispersal. The data in this analysis include all emerged individuals, including those that were never re-sighted

Plots showing fitted logistic curves with 95 % confidence interval (dotted lines) for the effect of male wing (left) and thorax (right) length on probability of dispersal. The data in this analysis include all emerged individuals, including those that were never re-sighted

 

Hot off the press!

After a long slog, my colleague Claudia Buser (now in New Zealand) and I (along with our late supervisor from Zurich, Paul Ward) have gone to press at Functional Ecology with her (I think I am allowed to say so) excellent work on maternal plasticity in yellow dung flies.

As yet non-copy-edited pdf here.

Lay summary here.

RolandScathophaga

This photo (by an old mate from Zurich, Roland Gautier) shows yellow males perched above ovipositing olive-coloured females on a dung pat. We experimentally studied whether female perceptions of the conditions their larvae would encounter affected larval fitness. I won’t spoil the punchline, but females are very clever, obviously. Nevertheless, we found no evidence that they are doing anything funny via sperm choice….