Analysis of key traits and their adaptive value in the life history and evolutionary ecology of wildlife species

Animal species have many interesting adaptations in life history, social behaviour, reproduction, nutrition, metabolism, morphology and pathogen resistance which may influence the vulnerability of wildlife populations when faced with anthropogenic challenges. Our interest is in understanding the mechanisms and the adaptive value as well as the genetic basis of such key traits. Our starting point is the pervasive evidence from much recent theoretical and empirical work that key adaptations are the consequence of selection pressures resulting from important evolutionary conflicts of interest. Recent advances in the theory of life history and empirical evidence also suggest that organisms have to decide how much of their limited resources they allocate to each trait during development and that the amount allocated will affect the degree to which the trait will be optimised with respect to a particular function. Organisms may have developed evolutionary rules of allocation that reflect trade-offs between different traits and functions as the consequence of an organism’s condition, current requirements or other relevant factors.

Our research comprises both intra-specific evolutionary conflicts (life history and social behaviour, mate-choice, reproduction) and inter-specific evolutionary conflicts (niches, adaptive genetic variability).