Systemic conequences of mating system evolution
To understand the evolution of any trait, behavior, or strategy, we have to consider the fitness costs and benefits of each alternative phenotype. The fitness of an individual organism is determined by its ability to survive and produce viable offspring. Natural selection will therefore favor any trait that positively affects survival or reproduction in a given environment. The populations that thrive and persist are those with the best phenotype in a changing environment. Many of these traits can be summarized into the ability to acquire and use resources efficiently. To achieve maximum fitness for the offspring, parental individuals should therefore mate selectively with partners of the most beneficial phenotype. The stronger the sexual selection, the stronger the selection gradient, and the higher the rate of evolution.
First, I will develop a model studying the systemic consequences of reproductive strategies (sexual vs. asexual reproduction) on the rate of trait evolution, incorporating the effects of sexual selection and the mating system (mate choice vs. random mating).
This model will be developed further to study life history strategies in relation to male investment, establishing a gradient from high male investment into offspring (paternal care) to low male investment (no paternal care).
Building on the insight that different mating systems may have different costs and benefits relating to ecology, I will perform a literature review and place mating systems (and taxa) along the previously established gradients.
I will use evolutionary modelling to address the research questions. We will study trait evolution and the emergence of population-level characteristics, such as the cost of sex and the rate of evolution, by looking at traits at the individual-level that affect energy acquisition and use, mating and signaling strategies, and trade-offs with survival.