Some areas of enduring interest include:
Everything needs to communicate with the world at large, and we are broadly interested in understanding the mechanisms, causes and evolutionary consequences of this basic challenge. Current projects examine how suites of traits coevolve to enable the effective exchange of information in ‘noisy’ environments, how the information encoded in diverse visual cues (colour, pattern, motion etc.) is integrated and weighed by viewers, and the role of communication in shaping local adaptation and speciation. We also enjoy testing and extending methods for analysing colour and vision in nature, as well as developing software that improves the accessibility of such tools.
Natural and sexual selection in the wild
How are intersexual differences reconciled with the fact that males and females largely share a genome? Can we predict the trajectory of evolution? How does social and natural selection interact to mediate adaptation? We are keen to understand the workings of adaptive evolution in nature. Current projects span sexual selection, signalling, and local adaptation in iridescent flies, the consequences of cognitive biases for sexual and deceptive signal evolution, and using urban environments as novel testing grounds for theory.
The evolution and maintenance of extreme variation
Species that exhibit conspicuous variation—such as polymorphism and sexual dimorphism—offer exciting opportunities for studying the evolutionary, ecological, and genetic basis of phenotypic diversity. We have a long-standing interest in these extremes, such as the colour polymorphic lures of tropical spiders and the sexually dimorphic ornaments of flies. We’re still working to unravel those particular puzzles, and also have ongoing projects on the evolution of dimorphism and seasonal polyphenism using model butterflies.