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Cambridge Reproduction


My research group investigates how animal behaviour influences evolution. We focus especially on behaviour during reproduction, particularly the social behaviour that occurs within animal families. For example, we’ve shown how the behaviour of host parents selects behavioural and morphological traits in nestling cuckoos and how brood parasitism selects complex defence portfolios in hosts. We’ve also demonstrated that evolutionary conflicts of interest cause co-adaptation among relatives within a family. Our current research combines experimental evolution on laboratory populations of burying beetles with field experiments and population genomics. Burying beetles are unusual among insects because both parents provide care for their larvae. We’ve discovered that behaviour can influence evolution not only by acting as an agent of natural selection but also by changing ecological conditions, by affecting the expression of genetic variation and by providing a mechanism for non-genetic inheritance.