EEB Seminar – 23 March

This week EEB welcomes Dylan Sora and Harley English-Dixon from the Department of Biology, Queen’s University:

Natural selection on phenology across the elevational range of an annual plant, Rhinanthus minor


A major question in evolutionary biology is why do species fail to adapt? A failure to adapt can be demonstrated at species range limit, and may be caused by a failure to achieve optimal trait values needed to expand beyond this limit. Species exist along a continuous gradient of differential seasonal pressures, where individuals at the range limit often experience the most severe effects of seasonality. Phenology, the timing of major life history events, is a target for selection, and may have associated life-history trade-offs (eg. time at reproduction versus size at reproduction) in environments with short growing seasons. The annual plant Rhinanthus minor grows in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta where it spans a continuous environmental gradient with an upper range limit of ~2300m. Over the past two summers I measured phenology, lifetime fitness, and other associated life history traits in natural populations of R. minor across its elevational range. I use multivariate selection analysis along with other associated statistical techniques to determine how phenotypic selection on flowering phenology differs across R. minor’s elevational range, and if phenology is the target for selection at high elevations reinforcing the upper range limit.

Personality and social dominance in the male zebra finch


Animals often display behaviours that are consistently different from the behaviours displayed by other members of the same population, within a single context. These consistent differences, which describe an individual’s personality, are sometimes correlated with other behaviours across contexts to create a behavioural syndrome. It is predicted that in social species, individuals that are bold, highly active, and exploratory will be dominant over individuals that are shy, less active, and avoidant. Understanding the relationship between personality and dominance is of special interest because dominance has been identified as a strong predictor of fitness in social species. However, experiments testing this relationship in birds have shown mixed results. I will discuss preliminary results from my MSc research, which focuses on the repeatability of personality traits and their association with social dominance in captive male zebra finches.

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.