Thesis: The Impacts of Environmental and Social Contexts on Sexual Selection and Sexual Conflict in the Seed Beetle Callosobruchus maculatus
Sexual reproduction is far from a cooperative endeavour between the sexes, with sexual conflict being found across a wide variety of taxa. Recent evidence suggests that environmental contexts can be important drivers of sexual conflict, and for sexual conflict function. We do not know therefore, whether findings from the laboratory can be extended to animals evolving in the wild.
I will address this knowledge gap using the seed beetle (Callosobruchus maculatus). I will firstly determine whether resource availability affects patterns of ejaculate allocation in response to sperm competition. I will also examine whether spatial complexity in the environment moderates the costs of mating to females. Finally, I will determine whether females plastically adjust their reproductive morphology in response to perceived risk of incurring mating costs.
Why my research is important
Although sexual selection and sexual conflict have been the focus of decades of research, the impact of environmental contexts on sexual selection operation and sexual conflict prevalence is still poorly understood. Furthermore, the vast majority of studies use captive-bred populations of model species that are housed in laboratory environments. Thus, further insight into how environmental and social contexts impact sexual conflict will help us to answer: a) if the prevalence of sexual conflict may be different in natural populations of animals and b) if the physical and social environments impact optimal reproductive strategies, and thereby alters the strength of selection from sexual conflict. Is our generalisation of sexual conflict ubiquity justified, given our knowledge is based on model systems adapted to ‘simple’ laboratory environments?