Our lab integrates behavioral studies in the wild with genomic, phenotypic, and diversification analyses, to address questions about the evolution of animal behavior and its role in generating morphological diversity and the origin of species.
Behavioral strategies can evolve in response to ecological opportunities. If conditions persist in time, the correlated evolution of physiological, morphological, and life history traits associated with these new behaviors can accelerate reproductive isolation and result in rapid speciation.
Our lab aims to understand the role of behavior in diversification by studying the following processes: (1) the development of reproductive isolation in the early stages following behavioral switches, (2) the correlated evolution of behavior, morphology, and communication signals, and their role in enhancing speciation, and (3) The macroevolutionary and macroecological mechanisms associated with alternative behavioral strategies.
Migratory behavior in birds as a model system.
A mechanism by which animals cope with seasonal changes is by moving thousands of kilometers every year. Migratory behavior contrasts with a year-round resident (i.e. non-migratory) strategy in which animal species adapt to climate swings in temperate environments, or to the challenges of breeding in equatorial latitudes (such as facing high diversity of nest parasites). Our research shows that migratory species of birds are often closely related to year-round residents, implying migration is frequently gained and/or lost. Moreover, sister species often differ in migratory strategy by migrating in different directions (i.e., migratory divides). In theory, these switches in migratory strategies may result in the formation of new species.