mercredi 29 novembre 2017

PhD - Bath & Bristol - Sex role evolution: phylogenetic analyses of mating and parenting in vertebrates

PROJECT TITLE:  Sex role evolution: phylogenetic analyses of mating and parenting in vertebrates

Main Supervisor:  Professor Tamás Székely, University of Bath, UK
Co-Supervisor: Dr Daniel J Field, University of Bath, UK
Co-Supervisor:  Prof Innes Cuthill, University of Bristol. UK

Project Enquiries:

Project Background
A general trend in social behaviour is that females tend to be the caring sex, whereas males focus more on mating; however there are illuminating exceptions. This division of sex roles has far-reaching effects on ecology, physiology and life histories of males and females. The causes, however, of sex role differentiation have remained controversial. This PhD project is focused on understanding the causes of sex role evolution in vertebrates using phylogenetic approaches.

Project Aims and Methods
This PhD project will focus on vertebrates (i.e. fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) that exhibit particularly well-studied sex role behaviour. The PhD project has three objectives:

1.  to investigate the association between key components of sex roles: courtship, competition for mates, pair bonding and parental care;
2.  to examine the influence of variation in ecology, life-history and social environment on sex roles;
3.  to investigate the multi-way feedbacks between sex roles, environment, life histories and the social environment using phylogenetic tools.

These objectives will be addressed using (i) detailed information on courtship, pair bonding and parental behavior collected by Prof Szekely’s team from multiple bird populations, and (ii) across vertebrates based on published data in the literature.
This will be a challenging and stimulating project that can potentially produce cutting edge results. The student will not only benefit from the excellent facilities at Bath and Bristol, but also from interacting with top international scientists involved in the project. Fieldwork in exotic locations can be negotiated.

The ideal candidate has a strong interest in evolution, phylogenetic methods and behaviour, and direct experience working with any vertebrate taxon. Excellent quantitative skills are required to perform phylogenetic comparative analyses and run mathematical simulations. Innovative thinking will be necessary to draw links between disparate sources of data.​

The training will focus on three major skills:
1. Phylogenetic analyses: this includes inferring phylogenies and using trees in a comparative framework for testing macroevolutionary hypotheses. Training in computational and advanced statistical methods will be a focus of this PhD;
2. Fieldwork including experimental design, behavioural observations, estimating ecological and life-history variables in the field;
3. Transferable skills including research planning, statistical analyses, paper writing, presentation and communication skills.

References / Background reading list
1.  Remeš, V., R. P. Freckleton, J. Tökölyi, A. Liker & T. Székely. 2015. The evolution of parental cooperation in birds. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, US 112: 13603-13608.
2.  Prum, R. O., Berv, J. S., Dornburg, A., Field, D. J., Townsend, J. P., Lemmon, E. M. and Lemmon, A. R., 2015. A comprehensive phylogeny of birds (Aves) using targeted next-generation DNA sequencing. Nature 526: 569-573.
3.  Cuthill, I. C. et al. 2017. The biology of color. Science 357: 470-475.
4.  Liker, A., R. P. Freckleton & T. Székely. 2013. The evolution of sex roles in birds is related to adult sex ratio. Nature Communications 4: 1587.