Blog Archives

Jan Lindström’s Seminar: Sexual signals and senescence in Sticklebacks

Today Jan Lindström from the University of Glasgow gave a fantastic talk in the BES seminar series. It’s always a special pleasure when you host an amazing speaker, because you can briefly pretend that inviting someone who gives a good talk is a matter of good taste and skill.

Ignoring this needless vanity on my part, Jan’s talk was particularly notable for several qualities: its skillful staging of the motivation for this work, its careful explanation of the theoretical framework (including slides containing — gasp — equations!), and the marriage of this theory with relatively simple (to understand, although undoubtedly not so simple to execute) experimental work validating some of the not-so-intuitive findings from theory. Motivation enough (though I shouldn’t need it) to revisit the papers describing this work by Lindstrom and his team, including former postdoc Tom Pike:

Jan Lindström, Thomas W. Pike, Jonathan D. Blount, and Neil Metcalfe. 2009. Optimization of resource allocation can explain the temporal dynamics and honesty of sexual signals. Am. Nat. 174: 515-525.

Thomas W. Pike, Jonathan D. Blount, Bjørn Bjerkeng, Jan Lindström, and Neil Metcalfe. 2007. Carotenoids, oxidative stress, and female preference for longer-lived males. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 274:1591-1596.

After the talk, a few of the regulars took in some beer and engaged in post-seminar science chat. In addition to plenty of questions about sticklebacks, we discussed the community dynamics of human pharyngeal microbes, and of lichens in haunted graveyards, and the proper attitude that a psychic should adopt if he or she happens to be in a casino on the Titanic (never mind the obvious bad planning or shortsightedness that this implies for the psychic). It made sense at the time.

Anywaaayyys, lotsa food for thought. Should be enough to keep us chewing until Hazel’s rundown of her summer work tomorrow night….

Susan Johnston’s seminar: Is bigger really better?

On Monday Susan Johnston from the University of Edinburgh’s Wild Evolution Group visited the Bussière lab to talk sex and SNPs.  She gave a fantastic seminar at the BES Monday seminar series on how genetic variation underlying a sexually selected trait (horn-size in wild Soay sheep) is maintained.  Her work, recently published in Nature showed that fluctuating selection at a single gene allows variation in horn size to persist in the wild.