- UC Santa Cruz
- The Arts
- student research
Behavioral ecology, Natural and sexual selection on reproduction, Behavior, Reptilian Communities, Speciation
Our research is focused on behavioral and physiological ecology. For example, we have described a biological example of a cyclical "rock-paper-scissors" game that is being "played" out among three color morphs of male side-blotched lizards in the Coast Range of California. As in the "rock-paper-scissors" game where paper beats rock, and scissors beats paper, and rock beats scissors; the wide-ranging, "ultra-dominant" strategy of orange males is defeated by the "sneaker" strategy of yellow males which is in turn defeated by the mate-guarding strategy of blue males which is in turn defeated by the orange strategy to complete the cycle. We are currently using DNA paternity analysis to measure success of each color morph under different morph frequencies. The game leads to interesting aspects of cooperation in the blue strategy. We are focusing on the evolution of cooperation, and how this might drive the speciation process.
Questions relating to the physiological ecology of females are addressed by assessing the trade-off between offspring quality and quantity. I have developed two complementary manipulations, egg miniaturization and gigantization, that allow me to experimentally address the physiological bases of egg and clutch size variation as well as its fitness consequences. Current research addresses effects of egg size on dispersal, territory establishment and reproductive success in male and female offspring. Because egg and clutch size also affect the future reproductive success of the female parent, we can also experimentally manipulate such "costs of reproduction" by altering clutch size in the female parent.
Although much of my work focuses on the microevolutionary changes in behavior and physiology of lizards, I am also interested in the evolution of development in marine and freshwater organisms with larval stages (e.g., sea urchins and amphibians). I am also interested in other macroevolutionary problems of evolutionary biology that involve speciation. Our recent work is related to socially mediated speciation rather than ecologtically mediated speciation, which is typically considered in speciation studies.