Two PhD positions available                                                Feb 9thpale_line

We are looking for two students interested in doing their PhD on the evolutionary origin and diversification of social complexity in lizards. The positions are part of a research project funded by the Australian Research Council and the successful candidates will be based either at the University of Tasmania (primary supervisor Geoff While) or at Macquarie University (primary supervisor Martin Whiting). The Lund collaborators are Tobias and Charlie Cornwallis. For more information on the position, please read here, or contact any one of us directly.


Winter is coming!                                                                Feb 8thpale_line

Winter is not really the best time of year in Skåne, unless you really enjoy all those different shades of grey. To get a feeling of a proper Swedish winter, the group packed their warmest clothes (and triple pairs of socks) and headed up to Sunne, where Tobias was born and raised. Winter in Värmland is the real thing – snow-covered forests, ice-covered lakes and the hope of a rare wolf spotting. People from eight nationalities put on their skis – some for the very first time – and headed out to the tracks. Read more…


Live bearing promotes the evolution of sociality              Dec 12thpale_line

(C) Dale BurzacottSome lizards and snakes tend to hang out in family groups, not unlike the more familiar social groups of birds and mammals. Our recent study, headed by Ben Halliwell and Geoff While and published in Nature Communications, show that the evolution of social grouping is much more likely to have happened in lizards and snakes that give birth to live young. There could be a number of reasons that transitions to sociality are more common for live bearing species… Read more…


Evolutionary adaptation to climate                                  Nov 22ndpale_line

A new study published in Evolution – headed by Nathalie – reveals how embryonic gene expression patterns change as non-native lizards adapt to cool climate. Populations adapting independently to the same environment provide important insights into the repeatability of evolution. In the 20th century, common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) from southern and western Europe were introduced to England, north of their native range. We have previously shown that non-native populations of both lineages have adapted to the shorter season and lower egg incubation temperature by increasing the absolute rate of embryonic development. In this new study, we show that embryos from non-native populations exhibit gene expression profiles consistent with directional selection following introduction… Read more…


Porto wall lizard meeting                                                   Oct 20thpale_line

The follow-up to the Lund wall lizard meeting took place at CIBIO outside of Porto. We had one and a half day of talks and, above all, stimulating and productive discussions about our ongoing projects. There is a lot of things in the pipeline and – thanks to all great PhD, postdoc and early career researchers working in the different groups – we will likely soon see a number of very exciting papers on evolutionary genomics, polymorphism, colouration, and introgressive hybridization. Yang and Tobias returned home with a long list of to-do’s over winter! Many thanks to Catarina and Miguel for organising it all – is it perhaps Italy next time!?


News in brief                                                                      Sep 26thpale_line

Our recent Evolution paper on chemical communication in lizards is accompanied by a nice digest by Pau Carazo and colleagues. Hopefully it will encourage more people to make use of a similar approach. Also online is the paper on conceptual change in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and there is a blog post about it here. Reinder and colleagues report on a recent meeting on the developmental biology of cooperation in Molecular Ecology. Finally, Tobias was recently elected member of the National Committee for Biology by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The committee’s mission is to support research and education in biology, to build bridges to adjacent disciplines, and to provide advice on matters that concern the biological sciences.


Heredity in Evolutionary Theory                                       Sep 22ndpale_line

It may not have escaped your attention that biologists are taking a more inclusive view on heredity these days, regularly referring to epigenetic or behavioural inheritance, for instance. It is often difficult to understand what this means, however, or why it matters. Tobias and Heikki Helanterä take a closer look at heredity in evolutionary theory in a new book from Oxford University Press – Challenging the Modern Synthesis: Adaptation, Development & Inheritance, edited by philosophers of biology Philippe Huneman and Denis Walsh. A pre-print version of the chapter can be found here.

In evolutionary biology, there are arguably four main ways to think of heredity… Read more…


Tobias reviews Making Sense of Genes                                Sep 6thpale_line

Making Sense of Genes – the new book by Kostas Kampourakis published by CUP – has been reviewed by Tobias for Frontiers in Genetics. The take home message is ‘It is great, read it!’. If you want to know why, the full review is here.


Illiam Jackson joins the group                                             Sep 4thpale_line

It is often pointed out that there is a strange gap between evolutionary biology and palaeontology. Particularly considering that it is hard to find something so obviously relevant to evolution as the fossil record… Anyway, we now hope to reduce this gap thanks to Illiam Jackson. Illiam did his PhD in palaeobiology in Uppsala under the supervision of Graham Budd (although he likes to point out that his first degree was in Biology). He joins us with a passion for morphometrics, and for making development relevant also to the study of fossils. Illiam will continue his work on plasticity and evolution of trilobite-ish arthropods here at Lund, but he will also – together with Nathalie Feiner – explore if developmental plasticity shapes adaptive radiation of lizards. Welcome Illiam!


Highlights from ESEB 2017                                               Aug 29thpale_line

This year’s European Society for Evolutionary Biology meeting was held in Groningen. ESEB is always a great opportunity to see old friends, learn new things, and – somewhat jealously! – see the progress on the most famous study systems in evolutionary biology, such as cichlids, Heliconius butterflies, and bird beaks. And progress there was. Among the most memorable were further evidence from the Seehausen group – presented by Joana Meier and others – that hybridization has played a creative role in fish evolution in both African and European lakes, and a tour-de force of Heliconius evolutionary genomics in a plenary by Chris Jiggins (there is a book, not only for butterfly lovers!)… Read more…


Friends shape the distribution of genetic variation          Aug 18thpale_line

Small encounters can have large impacts. This counts for animals as well. Particular for social animals – such as great tits – encounters with others affect how they move around and where they eventually settle. And this influences with whom they mate and how successful they are in life. In a new paper published in Molecular Ecology, Reinder Radersma and colleagues from Oxford and Sheffield show that the social environment has a large impact on the movement of great tits – a bird species roaming around Wytham Woods and many other Eurasian forests. These movements affect the distribution of genotypes, which is crucial for how the population can evolve. Read more…


Why do lizards smell?                                                          Aug 8thpale_line

Many male lizards produce secretions that they rub on the ground of their territories. The function of these secretions remains contentious, in particular whether or not they serve as indicators of male fighting ability or suitability as a mate.

A new paper, published in Evolution, suggests that sexual selection on chemical composition is, in fact, quite weak. Headed by recent PhD graduate Hannah MacGregor, and in collaboration with Geoff While and Patrizia d’Ettorre, we analysed the chemical composition of secretions from male lizards from France and Italy. The results confirmed previous work showing that chemical profiles can correlate with male secondary sexual characters. Read more…


New philosophy of biology paper                                     May 25thpale_line

Ever wondered why there is such intense disagreement over the evolutionary significance of development, non-genetic forms of inheritance, and niche construction? If so, you may be helped by a recent analysis by Tobias and Heikki Helanterä. The paper, accepted in the premier philosophy of science journal British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, uses niche construction as a case study to demonstrate how the way we think of causality in biological systems shape the structure of evolutionary explanations.

Richard Lewontin famously described evolution by natural selection in terms of three principles: variation, differential fitness and inheritance. Read more…


Ullergroup at Varvet 2017                                                May 22ndpale_line

gotenborgsvarvetThe group was well represented at this year’s Göteborgsvarvet, the world’s largest half marathon with over 60,000 runners. Reinder was the first to enter Slottskogsvallen, completing in an impressive 1 h 32 minutes.That is an average speed of 4.23 per km! But the achievement of the year must have been Nathalie. With 1.35.49 she not only broke her personal best by 11 minutes (!) but also finished 225th overall! A cold made Tobias’ start uncertain until the last minute, but in the end he dragged himself around the city, finishing five minutes behind Nathalie. We will be back next year – hopefully with even more group members on the starting line!


Cause and Process at the KLI                                           May 19thpale_line

KLI_cropEvolutionary biologists and philosophers of biology recently gathered at the KLI, an international centre for advanced studies in theoretical biology, to discuss the nature of causation in evolutionary biology. The workshop, organised by Tobias and Kevin Laland, aimed to clarify how the ongoing integration of development and evolution may influence the structure of evolutionary theory and the nature of evolutionary explanations.

The classic view on causation in evolutionary biology makes a clear distinction between proximate and ultimate causes. Read more…


    New papers

  • Signatures of selection in embryonic transcriptomes of lizards adapting in parallel to cool climate. Evolution 72:67-81
  • Social and spatial effects on genetic variation between foraging flocks in a wild bird population. Mol Ecol 26:5807-5819
  • Female reproductive investment in response to male phenotype in wall lizards and its implications for introgression. Biol J Linn Soc 121:876-882
  • Comparison of reproductive investment in native and non-native populations of lizards reveal sex differences in adaptive potential. Oikos 126:1564-1574