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Genetics of male traits and female preferences and their role in sympatric speciation


Research objectives and content
Traditionally speciation is understood as a by-product of divergent evolution in geographical isolation. Recent empirical observations and population genetical models, however, suggest that symaptric speciation by sexual selection may be a process that significantly shapes evolution of animal diversity. The objectives of this project are: (1) to determine the genetics of mate preferences and preferred traits in a model system (African cichlid fish) by cross- breeding and selection experiments (2) to determine effects of environmental conditions (light) on sexual selection by mate choice experiments and subsequent paternity analysis. (3) The genetical parameter values will be incorporated in an existing stochastic simulation model. Output of the model,and results of paternity analysis will be analysed against a background of existing data on colour and species diversityalong gradients of light conditions. The results will contribute to understanding how genes, behaviour and environment interact in sexual selection, and sympatric speciation. Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)
Objective: development of skills (1) in population genetical modeling and (2) in application of molecular techniques to population genetical problems. Obtaining research experience in these fields will add to my skills in a very much complementary way and will greatly increase my competitiveness as an evolutionary biologist. Having obtained these skills I feel I will be well equipped to set up a research programmein evolutionary biology wherever I may find employment after my postdoc. Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)

Funding Scheme

RGI - Research grants (individual fellowships)


University of Southampton
Bassett Crescent East
SO16 7PX Southampton
United Kingdom