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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

  • 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, in press
  • 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 2018:1-11
  • Signatures of selection in embryonic transcriptomes of lizards adapting in parallel to cool climate. Evolution 72:67-81