Thesis: Coevolution of male and female genital morphology in endemic millipedes.
My research project will examine biodiversity and speciation of short-range endemic millipedes from the genus Antichiropus. Specifically, I will examine divergence in genital morphology among species and populations in order to understand the mechanisms behind reproductive isolation and its role in speciation.
Antichiropus is a speciose genus in southwestern Australia (>150 species), providing excellent opportunities for comparative analysis. I will construct a molecular phylogeny of the genus, and collect data on male and female genital morphology. Using the most recent comparative approaches I will be able to quantify the rates of evolutionary divergence in male and female genitalia, and importantly, coevolutionary divergence between males and females. I will examine reproductive isolation by distance for one particular species, Antichiropus variabilis, and thereby determine the extent of reproductive isolation and its consequences for genetic divergence among populations.
Why my research is important
Compared to male genitalia, female genital morphology has been poorly studied. My project will contribute to the understanding of how female genital morphology can influence divergence in male genitalia as well as contribute to mechanical isolation and speciation between populations.
Furthermore, the genetic data collected during my project will provide important insights into the diversity of Antichiropus and the distribution of individual species across the landscape. As many Antichiropus species have restricted geographic ranges (are short-range endemics), they require active conservation and protection. The genetic information provided by this project will therefore be highly valuable for the development of suitable conservation initiatives for Antichiropus species.