Project Details


Behavioural barriers evolve early during divergence, and play a fundamental role during the evolution of
new species. To fully understand the evolution of animal diversity we need to know how behavioural barriers are mediated through changes in the sensory systems and the brain, and how these changes are influenced by natural selection and genomic architecture. This requires the integration of ecological, behavioural, sensory and neuroanatomical data, both within and between species, as well as information about the underlying genomic and developmental bases. Heliconius butterflies offer an excellent opportunity to achieve this, as they represent a radiation of closely related species with well-characterised ecologies, high-quality genomic resources, and are emerging as model of evolutionary neurobiology. This proposal combines emerging technologies, including cutting-edge genomic techniques, as well computer vision and machine learning, with ecological field studies across four interrelated objectives. Specifically, I will ask: 1) Does behavioural isolation involve the integration of different sensory modalities, how does their importance relate to shifts in ecology, and how does their interaction influence speciation? 2) What is the role of natural selection in shaping sensory systems and the brain, and how does this relate to mate choice behaviours? 3) What is the genomic architecture of behavioural isolation, including changes in preference phenotypes and also the underlying sensory systems and brain? And 4) What are the genes involved, and can we determine how behavioural barriers are generated both during development and across evolutionary time?
This ambitious project will address some of the most fundamental questions relating to the evolution of
behavioural isolation, a process fundamental to speciation and biodiversity, but also has implications for our understanding of the processes that drive behavioural phenotypes more broadly.


Brains, biodiversity, behaviour, genetics
Effective start/end date1/1/2012/31/25


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