Seminars

June 1 2016

12:00 LSB 2320

EEC Seminar

Faculty Jobs at Smaller Colleges

Summary

Jacqueline Robinson
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

"Origins of the red wolf: genetic investigation of historic canids from the founder capture zone"

In 1966 the red wolf (Canis rufus) received federal protection when Congress passed the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the predecessor of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. Since then, the red wolf, a smaller relative of the better known gray wolf (Canis lupus), has been intensively managed through captive breeding and a limited reintroduction in North Carolina. Recovery efforts have been mired in controversy, however, in part due to disagreement over genetic studies claiming that the red wolf is not a distinct species, but merely a hybrid of gray wolf and coyote (Canis latrans). In this study, diagnostic genetic markers are used to interrogate the historic population of canids present in the southeastern United States during the 1970s, from which the founders of the modern red wolf population originated. The red wolf founders and the canids present in the capture zone had predominantly coyote ancestry, with varying contributions of gray wolf ancestry. Furthermore, founder individuals had high levels of heterozygosity, potentially indicating recent admixed ancestry. These findings further attest to the possible hybrid origin of the red wolf, with implications for its protected status. While a powerful conservation tool, the ESA is highly oriented towards delineations of species and populations, rather than ecological or evolutionary functions and processes. The red wolf may merit continued protection for various reasons, and this case study serves to highlight potential problems with adherence to typological designations of species that are made complicated by hybridization.

Kenneth Chapin
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

"Behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology of the Amblypygid Phrynus longipes"

Behavioral researchers using Amblypygi have noted the regularity at which species engage in agonistic interactions. Despite this, why agonistic interactions occur and how they are resolved is unknown. I conducted paired interactions of the amblypygid Phrynus longipes in Puerto Rico to understand the dynamics of agonistic interactions. Through a series of analyses, I found that agonistic interactions are territory contests common across the demographic range of the species. Further, I decoded the strategy that opponents use to negotiate contests, and used resource contests to explain the peculiar pattern of cannibalism that this species exhibits. We used these results to build an evolutionary simulation model of contest strategies, with novel predictions for the evolution of unintuitive contest tactics. Further, I identified variation in contests and other behavioral phenotypes across cave and surface populations. Last, I discuss current work on understanding the genetic mechanisms that maintain this behavioral variation across environments. This research broadens theory of resource contest evolution and behavioral variation by investigating phenomena in a non-model study system.