Evolutionary Biology Group
Our research focuses on two inter-related areas: sexual selection and the nature of genetic variance in natural populations. Sexual preferences for elaborate sexual displays and ornaments are thought to evolve because they benefit the choosing sex (usually females) genetically. For the genetic benefits to be possible there must be additive genetic variation (VA) for sexual ornaments, such that highly ornamented individuals can pass fitter genes on to the progeny of choosy individuals.
Mutations and genes interacting with parasites, such as genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are important sources of genetic variation for fitness and are therefore an important focus of our research.
Sexual selection can also affect the amount of genetic variance in natural populations, for example by purging deleterious mutations from populations, which can decrease the cost of sexual reproduction and decrease the risk of population extinction. However, sexual selection also leads to divergent selection on sexes, which can increase sexually antagonistic genetic variation within populations.
Sexual selection often leads to the maintenance of alternative reproductive phenotypes (ARPs) within sexes. The evolution of ARPs, including its genetic aspects, is another area of our research.