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Departmental Seminars

Fall Semester 2015 and Spring Semester 2016

NOTE: Spring semester speakers and dates are tentative. More information will be available shortly.

Monday, October 26, 2015

12:00 PM in Harborwalk West 211

Acoustic Communication in Neoconocephalus: from Ion Channels to Phylogenetics

Johannes Schul, University of Missouri [website] [flier]

During the last thirteen years we studied the diversity of the acoustic communication system of the katydid genus Neoconocephalus. The ancestral call pattern is an extremely fast pulse rate (>200 Hz) produced as a continuous trill. Three derived call patterns occur in this group. Each one of these derived call traits has evolved several times independently. 

We tested female call recognition for pulse and chirp patterns. We found at least 5 different recognition mechanisms for the pulse pattern and three mechanisms for the chirp patterns of male calls. In addition, we found some species where male calls have derived characters but female call recognition remained in the ancestral state. 

Comparative analyses of the processing of the temporal call patterns and their timing relationships in the ascending sensory pathway provide additional evidence on the evolutionary mechanisms shaping the communication system. Molecular clock approaches reveal that the diversity of communication in this genus evolved extremely rapidly, with divergence times orders of magnitude less than found in comparable systems. 

In this talk, I attempt to integrate the various data sets into a comprehensive view of the evolutionary history and the mechanisms generating the diversity of this communication system.

Monday, November 9, 2015

12:00 PM in Harborwalk West 211

Organismal and evolutionary responses of insects to variable and changing climates

Joel Kingsolver, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill [website] [flier]

Insects and other terrestrial organisms experience variation in temperature, radiation and other environmental factors at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. I will describe two case studies with insects that consider variation across two temporal scales—diurnal fluctuations in temperature, and decadal changes in recent climate—and their consequences for performance, fitness, selection and evolution. First, experimental studies with Manduca (hornworm) larvae show that diurnal temperature fluctuations alter rates of growth, development and survival, due both to the non-linear effects of temperature on performance (thermal performance curves) and
to the time-dependent effects of stress and physiological acclimation. Second, we use historical data, recent experiments, and modeling to evaluate potential evolutionary responses of Colias butterflies to recent climate changes. Our empirical studies detect evolutionary shifts in phenotypic traits for some life stages but not others. Our models for the fitness and evolutionary effects of climate on Colias adults suggest that weather variability among years causes
fluctuations in the fitness landscapes for key thermoregulatory traits, strongly limiting evolutionary responses to overall climate warming.

Monday, January 25, 2016

12:00 PM Location: Harborwalk West 305

Success in nature and sport: exploring the biological basis of excellence in physical activities

Robbie Wilson, University of Queensland [website] [flier]

All physical activities rely on a complex assortment of anatomical, physiological, motor and behavioural traits. Discovering the determinants of individual success in physical activities has become central to the study of adaptation because it allows one to understand the coevolution of organismal form and function in natural populations. In a similar way, determining the combination of traits most responsible for success in human functional tasks is of enormous interest to the sports industry for discovering and developing athletes and the health sciences for facilitating improved pathways of recovery following injury. But despite the parallels in research programs between the natural and health sciences, each discipline has operated in relative isolation. In this seminar, I will explore the parallel lines of research that explore the determinants of success in physical activities in two very different but complimentary study systems: (i) natural populations of the small carnivorous marsupial, the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) from tropical Australia, and (ii) semi-professional soccer players. The northern quoll is the world’s largest semelparous mammal, which means mating is highly synchronous, males live for only one year, and all males undergo die-offs soon after reproduction. Given the importance of procuring mates in such a short period (approx. 2 weeks), the ability for males to win fights and cover long distances to find reproductively mature females is presumably of critical importance. Female quolls live for two to three years and their die-off occurs after the young are weaned - which is around four months after the mating season. Soccer is also ideal for a integrative studies of success because we can readily identify, isolate and quantify many of the possible underlying determinants of success among large numbers of individual players. Soccer is the world’s most popular team sport and is played by an estimated 240 million registered competitors and watched by more than a billion people worldwide. Using these two very different study systems, I will discuss the implications of my work for understanding the evolution and ecology of physical performance in nature.

Monday, February 8, 2016

4:00 PM Location: SSMB Auditorium 

Special Darwin Week Seminar 

Where'd you get those peepers? How eyes and other complex organs evolve

Ryan Gregory, University of Guelph, Ontario Canada [website][flier]

A century and a half ago, the origin of complex organs such as the human eye seemed explicable only in terms of supernatural design. Darwin provided the basic framework for a scientific answer to the question in The Origin of Species, but he nonetheless admitted that thinking about the eye gave him a "cold shudder". A great deal of new information has arisen in the roughly 150 years since Darwin first addressed the problem of eye evolution -- including insights from genetics, molecular biology, comparative anatomy, developmental biology, and evolutionary theory. This talk provides an overview of both the concepts and current data that provide an understanding of how eyes and other complex organs come to be.

Monday, April 4, 2016

12:00 PM Location: TBD

Jim Fordyce, University of Tennessee, Knoxville [website]

More information to come

Monday, April 25, 2016

12:00 PM Location: TBD

Carl Schlicting, University of Connecticut [website]

More information to come