Dr. Maydianne Andrade, University Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto
“Social Context Triggers Flexible Trait Expression: Extreme Mating of Widow Spiders Untangles Adaptive Plasticity”
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Date: June 15, 2023. 5pm – 6pm ET
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Understanding how variation in ecological context shapes evolution is a major focus in biology, with implications for species diversity, invasiveness, and resilience to environmental change. Given that evolution hinges on reproductive success, sexual behaviours and related traits can be key to understanding these dynamics. I discuss how juvenile development can shift as a function of cues of population density and sex ratio, as these predict the challenges to reproductive success that will be encountered by adults. The result is adaptive developmental plasticity, where gene expression changes to yield traits that are well-suited to the competitive context likely to be encountered by adults. I discuss my work developing widow spiders are models for testing key predictions of hypotheses about the evolution of adaptive plasticity, including how their extreme mating behaviours (e.g., sexual cannibalism, sperm plugs, and scramble competition) can be leveraged for rigorous tests of theory that link insights from the field and the lab.
The CBSN/RCSN gratefully acknowledges the University of Toronto Scarborough and its support as the Network Host Institution, and the Academic Program Committee of the Network for the BE-STEMM Seminar Series.