Some areas of enduring interest include:
Visual communication is ubiquitous in nature. It underlies some of the most conspicuous aspects of biological diversity—such as the eyes and colours of animals and plants—and we are broadly interested in understanding the mechanisms, causes, and consequences of this mode of information exchange. Current projects focus on examining how suites of signalling traits coevolve to enable the effective exchange of information in ‘noisy’ conditions, and how the information encoded in diverse visual cues (colour, pattern, motion etc.) is integrated and weighed by viewers to ultimately effect behaviour. 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 local adaptation? We are keen to understand the workings of adaptive evolution in nature. Current projects span sexual selection, reproductive isolation, 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.