I’ve fallen a little behind on updates, so in a bid to get things back on track, here are a few highlights from the lab over the past year or so:
Firstly, congratulations to Mark Koschmieder for completing his Master thesis on sexual selection and the evolution of allometry (a theoretical project I supervised together with Matthias Galipaud) and to Max Edich for completing his Bachelor thesis on identifying seminal fluid transcripts in different Macrostomum species just before Christmas! Our DFG seminal fluid project is coming to an end this year, and we’re busily writing several things up, so hopefully much more on that theme to come…
Also just before Christmas, it was our great pleasure to host the 11th International Macrostomum Meeting here in the department. The weather could have been better (as you can see from the group photo), but it was great fun having everyone here for our annual get-together of the Macrostomum research community for a weekend of talking worms.
I seemed to have missed writing about a few publications during the year too:
First, the special issue of Molecular Reproduction & Development dedicated to sex in hermaphrodites came out. My review focussed on flatworms, with other contributions from Stefan Siebert and Celina Juliano on cnidarians, Joris Koene on snails, Ronald Ellis on nematodes, Delany Rodriguez, Susannah Kassmer and Anthony De Tomaso on ascidians, Hui Liu, Erica Todd, Mark Lokman, Melissa Lamm, John Godwin and Neil Gemmell on fish, and a general introductory essay by Lukas Schärer. Thanks to Mariana Wolfner and Julian Wong for putting it all together!
Then in the spring, it was great to see Maike Foraita‘s Master thesis work published on strategic investment in sperm removal behaviour in the bushcricket Metaplastes ornatus. Maike and co-author Sophie Lehfeldt were students on our Master programme Behaviour: From Neural Mechanisms to Evolution, and conducted the experiments for this paper during our annual field trip to Greece.
Over the summer, a long-running project came to fruition with the publication of this paper in Biological Reviews, which is a sort-of review-theory-hybrid exploring the varying patterns of reproductive investment (as captured by gonado-somatic index, or GSI) among male and female broadcast spawning marine invertebrates. Geoff Parker was the driving force behind the study, with sterling contributions also from Jono Henshaw and Jussi Lehtonen. The four of us never met together in one place throughout the whole process (and with Jono and Jussi based in Australia part of the time, we were frequently working in very different time zones), but pinging emails and drafts backwards and forwards somehow worked very smoothly. To summarise the findings: broadcast spawners show a range of different sex-specific GSI investment patterns, with usually females investing more than males, but sometimes the opposite (or roughly equal investment is quite common too). Theoretically, we explored how factors such as sperm competition, sperm limitation and trade-offs with somatic maintenance and growth might affect GSI investment; greater female investment is easy to derive, but only under quite restrictive conditions would we predict greater male investment, so this empirical pattern remains something of an evolutionary puzzle. You can read the paper here, just don’t be too daunted by the ridiculously long (34 pages!) tables of raw data that interrupt the flow a little in the middle of the literature survey…keep reading/scrolling to get to the theory part!
And on a much smaller scale, it was also fun to write this Perspective with Leif Engqvist on an interesting study by Manser et al. on how multiple mating by female mice can keep a selfish genetic element in check.
2018 promises to be a bumper year for thesis and manuscript submissions, so there’ll hopefully be more to report here very soon…