Fishy stories: genitals, inbreeding and (maybe) adult sex ratios

Type: 
Seminar
Date: 
Friday 29 September, 2017
Time: 
3.00pm
Location: 
Mathews Theatre C, UNSW Kensington campus

Why are some males are more successful than others in siring offspring? To answer this question I will examine the role of male genital size and inbreeding status. First, male genitalia varies widely in length across different species of livebearer fish, but is there any advantage to fish to have a longer than average intromittent organ? I will tackle this question using an artificial selection experiment, mate choice trials and selection analyses. Second, it is well known that inbred animals are less successful, but where does their disadvantage arise? Third, if time permits, I will briefly explain how the ratio of adult males to females might explain the evolution of sex differences in parental care. 

Biography: 

I grew up in South Africa. My MSc was on sperm competition in frogs. One highlight was designing a frog condom (yes, a plastic bag works). I was then lucky to get funding for a PhD in England. I was all set to work on meerkats, but ended up studying sexual selection in a range of animals and plants under the wonderful supervision of Marion Petrie at Oxford. This gave me a wide range of experience, but no technical or taxonomic specialty. In early 1996, Patricia Backwell and I headed off to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. While applying for post-docs I learned the pleasures of sundowners, how to fall off a motorbike, travelled to Barbados and Trinidad, and discovered the virtue of wearing boxers rather than briefs when living in the tropics. In late 1997 my unemployment ended when I received a STRI Fellowship. I continued my tradition of working on new taxa:  parental care and mate desertion in cichlids and life history evolution in a live-bearing fish. I arrived in Australia in 2001. Here I have mainly worked on crickets and mosquitofish, and occasionally helped with fieldwork on fiddler crabs in collaboration with Pat Backwell. My group web site with info on students and collaborators who do all the real work is here.