Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Host: Graduate Students
Title: Behavior is a motor and a brake of evolution
Abstract: One of the most striking patterns of evolution is its uneven tempo across the tree of life. Whereas some traits and lineages diversify rapidly, others appear to remain inert over millions of years. But why is this so? What causes evolution to achieve overdrive, and what forces it into the slow lane? Research in my lab explores uneven patterns of diversity in reptiles, amphibians, and fishes, and investigates the processes that underpin them. Today, I explore this question by focusing on one of evolution's key architects: behavior. I illustrate how organisms are not passive targets of selection; rather, through behavior, they can be agents of selection, amplifying it some cases and dampening it in others. Using Anolis lizards as a model system, I reveal the signatures of behavior at both micro- and macroevolutionary scales and illustrate the constraints on this phenomenon. Behavior can slow or hasten evolution and, on occasion, it does both simultaneously.