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Keeping track of what is new                                                       July 22ndpale_line

A great way to keep track of interesting research on development and evolution, inclusive inheritance, and much more is to follow our international research program on social media. Lynn Chiu is the new media and communication officer and she will tweet, blog and more to promote exciting research in evolutionary biology and philosophy of biology.

 

Plasticity can take the lead in adaptive evolution                        July 20thpale_line

Plasticity-led evolution would be likely if the trait combinations induced by novel environments harbour more than their fair share of genetic variation. Our new paper in PNAS shows that this is in fact quite common. For a nice overview, see this post by Luis-Miguel Chevin on F1000. Dan Noble and Reinder Radersma collected data from studies that quantified traits and their additive genetic covariance in animals and plants exposed to novel environments. On the whole, the multivariate phenotypic change caused by environmental change were well aligned with the maximum genetic variation – and better than expected by chance. Read more…

 

Introducing maternal effects                                                           July 1stpale_line

Feel confused about maternal effects? Don’t worry, you are not alone. This new annotated bibliography from Oxford University Press by Tobias will help navigate the literature. Its entries provide starting points for exploring the role of maternal effects in evolutionary biology – from partitioning of phenotypic variance to the evolution of inheritance. We hope you will find it useful.

 

It is time to say goodbye…                                                              June 7thpale_line

… to Reinder and Alfredo. As the EES grant comes to a close, we are sad to see some of our friends move on, but excited about the opportunities they have created for themselves. Reinder is now a researcher in statistical genetics at Wageningen University & Research Institute, which is THE place to be for agriculture, environmental and food science. His work on maternal effects, plasticity and evolvability will undoubtedly prove useful also to domesticated plants and animals. Read more…

 

Summer cottage getaway                                                              June 3rdpale_line

All visitors to Sweden should experience that summer cottage feeling! Accordingly, the group packed their thermal underwear, swim trunks, shorts and rain coats and headed to Tobias’ family’s cottage in Värmland. All outfits came to good use since we had typical Swedish summer weather – blue sky followed by rain, and then glorious weather when we had to leave. Just like every year. Read more…

 

Geoff While visiting                                                                        April 7thpale_line

We are very happy to have Geoff While from the University of Tasmania visiting us for three months. Geoff is a fantastic friend and collaborator whose scientific drive, passion for biology, and lizard catching skills are nearly impossible to beat. In addition to the usual wall lizard field season, we have a few old projects to finish off, some that are in full swing, and perhaps one or two new ones to launch. Not to mention all the other things you could get done over a beer or two. Welcome Geoff!

 

Ullergroup at Evolution Evolving                                                  April 6thpale_line

The Evolution Evolving at Cambridge was packed with three days of exciting talks – from culture in whales to control theory and the philosophy of explanation. The crew from Lund felt like lizards in the sun – pretty comfy and happy! So much in fact that Alfredo won the prize for best talk, and Illiam the prize for best poster. Congratulations to both! We are very grateful to our fellow organisers and all the participants for making this such a great event. A full conference report will be posted in due time at the EES webpage, together with recordings of plenaries and key notes. They were brilliant! Until then, you can see what you missed at #evoevolving and #EES_Update.

 

How adaptive plasticity evolves when selected against            March 12thpale_line

Yes, that is the surprise title of Alfredo’s new paper in PLoS Computation Biology! When we discover examples of adaptive plasticity we usually think that it evolved because selection favoured it. But can adaptive plasticity evolve when selection favours non-plastic individuals? Think of a population of insects that hatches, reproduces and dies twice every year: once in spring and once in autumn. Spring and autumn conditions may be very different, but plasticity could allow the insects to cope with both seasons. Yet, insects born in spring never experience autumn, and vice versa, so natural selection cannot directly favour plasticity. In fact, plastic individuals may do worse than individuals that are not plastic, which means plasticity could consistently be selected against. This problem is similar to tuning the learning rate in Machine Learning. Read more…

 

Solved: the genetics of colour polymorphism in wall lizards      March 1stpale_line

A new paper in PNAS reveals that the orange and yellow ventral colour morphs in wall lizards is caused by regulatory changes in pterin and carotenoid genes. Interestingly, it seems like the alleles are old and occasionally shared between species. Miguel Carneiro and his team at CIBIO and Leif Andersson at Uppsala led the work, and we helped with the genome, samples, and other bits and pieces. The chromosome-scale genome assembly is of high quality and should become a useful resource – so just get in touch if you want to know if the wallies are right for you too!

 

Kirsty MacLeod joins us!                                                     Jan 17thpale_line

Kirsty joins us on a Marie Curie Fellowship, with the aim to understand how the social environment mediates the effects of prenatal stress. The work will be done in our favourite social lizards – the Egernia. It will help us understand if and how parental care can eliminate negative effects of prenatal stress. Kirsty’s research will also allow us to test if maternal effects contribute to the stability of social systems in these lizards. Her project is a collaboration with Tony Williams at Simon Fraser University, and Geoff While at the University of Tasmania. Welcome Kirsty!

 

Origin of the Welsh wall lizards now settled                        Jan 4thpale_line

The sole Welsh population of common wall lizards is located on the Gower peninsula. Its origin has been unknown, but we have now established that they come from the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy. This is also the origin of some of the English populations, but the Welsh population is most likely a primary introduction. That lizards of Italian origin have established a breeding population in Wales demonstrates the adaptability of these little guys. You can read the report in the Herpetological Bulletin.

 

A new take on the epigenetic signatures of prenatal stress          Dec 12thpale_line

The conditions encountered in the womb can have life-long impact on health. It is usually assumed that this is because embryos respond to adverse conditions by programming their gene expression. In collaboration with Bas Heijmans and others, we propose that these effects also can be caused by selection on stochastic epigenetic variation. The paper is published in Cell Reports and there is also a press release. The concept of fetal programming is based on the idea that embryos modify their physiology in response to the uterine environment. Read more…

 

Developmental Bias and Evolution at Santa Fe                Nov 20thpale_line

The third and final workshop funded by our EES grant took on the role of developmental bias in evolution. Like the meeting in February, Santa Fe greeted us with snow, jetlag, and huevos rancheros for breakfast. The workshop showcased the extraordinary breadth of approaches used to understand if, and how, developmental processes direct evolution. Ecologists, developmental biologists, and palaeontologists explained what data are out there and what they mean. Theoretical biologists and computer scientists convincingly showed that the role of development not only can be formulated in precise terms, but that there are predictions ready to be tested. Read more…

 

Another bad day for anticipatory maternal effects            Nov 20thpale_line

A new study on water fleas, headed by Reinder and Alex, suggests that a classic example of adaptive maternal effects is not as adaptive as we might have thought. Some years ago, Tobias, Sinead and Shinichi did a meta-analysis that seemed to undermine the idea that maternal effects are designed to transfer information about the local environment. Reviewers and editors did not really want to hear that, and the paper proved somewhat difficult to publish (but has been well received and cited). But one ‘anticipatory maternal effects’ appeared well supported: water fleas exposed to toxic cyanobacteria produced offspring that were more tolerant to the toxin. Read more…

 

Sexual selection moves genes from one lineage to another      Sept 20thpale_line

We have previously shown that male-male competition causes introgression of a suite of sexually selected characters between two lineages of common wall lizards. A new study headed by Yang – published in Molecular Ecology – reveals that about 3% of the genome has moved in the same direction. Interesting, Yang’s analysis shows that this asymmetric gene flow is more recent than the secondary contact itself. What appears to have happened is that the sexually selected characters originated within the Italian lineage quite recently. They then spread northwards, eventually reaching the Ligurian coast and the contact zone with the lizards from western Europe, where they continued to give males a competitive advantage. The next steps are to figure out how this suite of characters arose in the first place, how the characters are kept together as they introgress, and what – if anything – that limits their spread across the landscape.

 

Workshop on the origins of individuality                           Sept 8thpale_line

The evolutionary process is itself evolving. Perhaps the best example is the origin of new reproductive organizations that are capable of evolving by natural selection. Single celled organisms evolved into multicellular organisms, some of which – leaf cutter ants, for example – appear to have evolved into collectives that deserve the label superorganism.

Last week our group hosted a small workshop to bring together researchers that use different approaches to tackle how and why such transitions in individuality happens. The aim was to share insights from projects within our Templeton-funded grant, and to spread ideas to local Lund researchers. Read more…

 

Roman Zug joins us!                                                          Sept 7thpale_line

Roman is a theoretical biologist with a PhD from the Humboldt University in Berlin. His PhD research, supervised by Peter Hammerstein, focused on the evolutionary dynamics of symbionts. Now on a DFG fellowship, Roman will explore the evolution of developmental systems that produce discrete phenotypes in different environments – also known as polyphenisms. Welcome to Lund Roman!

 

Review of Extended Heredity                                            Sept 5thpale_line

Russell Bonduriansky’s and Troy Day’s recent book Extended Heredity explores how changing heredity concepts influence how evolutionary biologists think about evolution, and how we may go about generating and testing predictions. The book has been very well received – including our review in Evolution and another in Science. Russell and Troy discuss some of the more contentious parts in this blog post.

 

Developmental Bias and Evolution                                 June 30thpale_line

A recurrent theme in evolutionary biology is to contrast natural selection and developmental constraint – two forces pitted against each other as competing explanations for organismal form. A recent Perspective in the journal Genetics explains why this juxtaposition is deeply misleading. There is also a blog about the paper here. Read more…

 

Amanda Pettersen joins the group!                                 June 24thpale_line

Amanda joins us from Monash University, where she recently completed her PhD under the supervision of Dustin Marshall. Amanda’s PhD thesis explored how metabolic theory can inform microevolutionary patterns of life history variation. Abandoning her marine invertebrates for wall lizards – but keeping her interest in thermal biology – Amanda will now take on the challenge to understand how lizard embryos adapt to the cold. Welcome Amanda!

 

New papers on thermal biology of reptile embryos         May 28thpale_line

Most reptiles lay eggs in sand or soil, under logs or in rock crevices. These are places where the temperature often fluctuates, sometimes becoming dangerously high or low. The pervasive effects of temperature on biological systems begs the question how embryos respond in the short term, and how populations adapt in the long term. This question is now thoroughly explored in a theme issue of the Journal of Experimental Zoology, with contributions from our group. Read more…

 

Anolis symposium in Miami                                              April 4thpale_line

The organizers had chosen an appropriate setting for the 2018 Anolis symposium – sunny Miami, Florida, at the Fairchild Botanical Garden that ‘hosts’ six Anolis species. Since Nathalie was working at the museum collection of the University of Florida, she took the opportunity to join for two days of Anolis fun. The meeting was the fifth of its kind, with the first taking place already in 1972. That is an average of one meeting every 9th year! Not very frequent, but it means the symposium already is a classic event. The program was full, but the organizers had scheduled long coffee and lunch breaks to make sure there was enough time to explore the Botanical Garden, in particular to meet our scaly friends, of course. Read more about the sunny trip…

 

    New papers

  • Genetic differentiation predicts body size divergence between island and mainland populations of common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis). Biol J Linnean Soc, in press
  • Linking life‐history theory and metabolic theory explains the offspring size‐temperature relationship. Ecol Lett 22:518-526
  • Selective survival of embryos can explain DNA methylation signatures of adverse prenatal environments. Cell Rep 25:2660-2667
  • Timing of maternal exposure to toxic cyanobacteria and offspring fitness in Daphnia magna: Implications for the evolution of anticipatory maternal effects. Ecol Evol 8:12727-12736
  • Genomic evidence for asymmetric introgression by sexual selection in the common wall lizard. Mol Ecol 27:4213-4224
  • A comprehensive database of thermal developmental plasticity in reptiles. Sci Data 5:180138
  • Developmental plasticity in reptiles: Insights from temperature‐dependent gene expression in wall lizard embryos. J Exp Zool Part A 329:351-361