Are animals’ sexual traits governed by how they reproduce?
Why haven’t mammals developed the same beautiful colours as birds – even though mammals also need to attract a partner in order to reproduce? Wallenberg Academy Fellow John Fitzpatrick will investigate how animals’ traits and sexual behaviours have been affected by evolutionary transitions from one method of reproduction to another.
“This grant allows us to tackle a key outstanding question in sexual evolution and it will help to explain the diversity of animal reproduction. It’s absolutely fantastic”, Dr. John Fitzpatrick from Stockholm University says.
Within evolutionary theory there are two primary forces in the development of a species: survival and reproduction. The latter has been used to explain why animals court their partners or have beautiful feathers; if you don’t attract a partner you won’t be able to reproduce. But why have different species developed different behaviours and characteristics for reproduction?
John Fitzpatrick will investigate whether the way an animal reproduces influences how evolution acts on their sexual behaviours and traits by analyzing what happened at the transition from one method of reproduction to another. For example, how has a species been affected by starting to give birth to live young instead of laying eggs? Or when it has moved from external to internal fertilization?
He will analyze the family tree of animal life to see whether different evolutionary transitions can be linked to changes in sexual traits. He will also analyze in greater detail fish in the “live-bearing tooth-carps” family, where male sexual behaviours range from non-courting to elaborate courtship displays to attract females. His aim is the comprehensive understanding of sexual evolution in the family tree of animal life.
“We will be able to look at the broad evolutionary patterns by looking across a wide range of animals rather than looking at one specific species at a time”, he says.
December 1, 2016
Source: External Relations and Communications Office