Why is there so much variation between bodies? If we expect natural selection to continuously increase the quality of a body, why aren’t bodies better? If the traits of a body associated with Darwinian fitness reached their ideal form, would all bodies be the same?
I investigate why bodies are different, and how that is affected by sex. Two hypotheses addressing this question that particularly interest me are: 1 – new mutations are bad but happen constantly; and 2 – a body’s traits that are good in some contexts are bad in other contexts. Sex may play a disproportionate role in both of these hypotheses. First, the most popular evolutionary explanation for the benefit of the act of reproduction by sex is to spread out the bad mutations between different bodies. Second, the differences between bodies that are good for one sex can be bad for another sex. Together, these two forces might give sex unrivalled power in shaping the differences between bodies.
Sex is so impactful that the chromosomes associated with sex can often be identified under the microscope! I study sex chromosomes in a variety of organisms with the goal of asking: how much does sex really contribute to differences between bodies?
I am currently working as a post-doc with Dr. Maydianne Andrade at the University of Toronto-Scarborough on mating strategies, inbreeding and sociality in black widow spiders. I will be joining the lab of Dr. Nancy Chen at the University of Rochester as a post-doc to study the sex chromosomes of the Florida Scrub Jay. I received a PhD in 2020 working on the sex chromosomes of the plant Rumex hastatulus with Dr. Stephen I Wright at the University of Toronto.
If looking for an overview of my completed work, see my research page.