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…


Quick guide to a turtle’s shell                                          April 27thpale_line

TurtleAntonio gives a Quick guide to a turtle’s shell in a recent issue of Current Biology. This 200 million years old innovation, he write, provides shelter from the environment, enhances thermoregulation, protects from predator attacks and even acts a rich reservoir of fats, minerals and water. From the evolutionary perspective, the shell can be seen as an anatomical innovation that has set turtles off along a unique evolutionary trajectory. Read the whole story here.


Listen to monogamous lizard family affair                   April 26thpale_line

EgerniasWhat can lizard families tell us about our own? Some mate for life and take care of their young. Geoff While speaks on Australian radio about our research on evolution of social complexity in lizards.



Indiana Yang and the origin of the Tuscans!                April 25thpale_line

This greenguyyear marked the 6th in our quest for the evolutionary origin and introgressive spread of a sexually selected syndrome in wall lizards. It marked a return to central Italy to fill in the remaining gaps in the map tracing the origins of this phenotype. What has been revealed so far is an intricate history of isolation, evolution, and conquest through interbreeding. Read more about the background to the Italian drama and the fieldwork behind it…


Hannah MacGregor, PhD!!                                              March 31stpale_line

As if it was not enough that Hannah’s PhD assessors gave her a clean pass for her thesis on sexual selection and hybridization in wall lizards, she also received the price for Outstanding Performance from the School of Biological Sciences at UTas! Unfortunately, Hannah could not be there to receive the prize in person as she is already off for new adventures, this time learning how to catch guppies. We are not sure what she will do with the prize money, but we hear that cocktails are cheap in Trinidad…


Postdoc position available                                                Feb 23rdpale_line

We are looking for a postdoc who wants to work on developmental bias and its evolutionary implications. More information on the position and how to apply can be found here.


What’s new in lizard social evolution?                           Feb 22ndpale_line

Egernia_familyA series of recent papers (Halliwell et al. 2017, Halliwell et al. 2017, Botterill-James et al. 2017) show how good places to live shapes family life in Egernia lizards. Our research – headed by Geoff and his students Ben and Tom – have revealed that the distribution of crevice sites influence group size, polygyny, and the opportunity for sexual selection. This also affects the offspring, because the distribution of adults determine the costs and benefits of dispersal. Read more…


New group members!                                                       Jan 28thpale_line

We are very happy to welcome Mara Ruiz Miñano and Théo Ducos to the group. Mara is a new PhD student at the University of Tasmania, supervised by Geoff and Tobias. Mara will join our research project on the causes and consequences of hybridization in wall lizards. This means she will split her time between Lund and Tasmania, with a fair bit in between catching lizards in Italy. Théo will also be working on wall lizards for his MSc project, which continues our collaboration with Patrizia D’Ettorre at the University of Paris 13.


This View of Life                                                                Jan 24thpale_line

Tobias is interviewed by David Sloan Wilson on This View of Life. The piece can also be read on our EES blog, together with recent posts by Massimo Pigliucci, Kim Sterelny, Armin Moczek and others.


    New papers

  • Signatures of selection in embryonic transcriptomes of lizards adapting in parallel to cool climate. Evolution, in press
  • 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
  • Resource distribution mediates social and mating behavior in a family living lizard. Behav Ecol 28:145-153
  • Experimental contact zones reveal causes and targets of sexual selection in hybridizing lizards. Funct Ecol 31:742-752