Archive

Insects

2016-06-11 18.53.54

Just emerging from a busy teaching period, it was as ever a pleasure this year to welcome first another enthusiastic group of Bachelor students to our upper-level undergraduate course on “Key Concepts in Evolutionary Ecology”, followed by another excellent set of Master students taking our module “Evolution of Behaviour”. The Master module – which Klaus Reinhold and I teach together – focuses on bushcricket behavioural ecology, and our aim is to try to pack in the full scientific “experience”, from developing a hypothesis and designing an experiment to test it, then actually conducting the experiment and analysing the results, through to finally presenting the research in a paper and oral presentation (all in 6 weeks!). The highlight is a two-week trip to central Greece, where we conduct the experiments the students have designed in the field. It was a brilliant trip this year, undoubtedly enhanced through various guest researchers joining us (thanks all!). Today is the last day of the module, and I’m very much looking forward to the students’ presentations of their work in the final symposium this afternoon.

A few other recent lab developments:

First, a very warm, if slightly belated, welcome to Ekin Demir, an intern student studying in Ankara who is joining the lab over the summer. During her visit, Ekin will work together with Bahar, myself and our collaboration partner Claudia Fricke in Münster on a spermatogenesis project.

Second, speaking of Münster, the lab was well represented at the Insect Reproductive Molecules meeting there this week. Well done to Bahar, Michael, Yumi and Ekin for your contributions and thanks very much to Claudia and her team for putting together an excellent meeting (and for inviting us even though we don’t work on insects!). Some fascinating discussion of seminal fluid-mediated effects and various other reproductive phenomena in Drosophila, beetles, snails and flatworms, and a really friendly and open atmosphere (despite all the talk of Brexit in the coffee breaks!).

And finally, my aim of blogging about papers as we publish them has slipped a bit, so to catch up, I’m delighted to report that an experimental evolution study in Macrostomum lignano led by Tim Janicke has just come out in Journal of Evolutionary Biology, plus two review articles. The first is a chapter I wrote together with Lukas Schärer on sex in hermaphrodites for the Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology, and the second is my take on why flatworms are an interesting model group for studying various aspects of sexual diversity, commissioned for a forthcoming special issue of Molecular Reproduction & Development dedicated to Hermaphrodites.

Janicke T, Sandner P, Ramm SA, Vizoso DB, Schärer L (2016)
Experimentally evolved and phenotypically plastic responses to 
enforced monogamy in a hermaphroditic flatworm
Journal of Evolutionary Biology. http://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.12910

Schärer L, Ramm SA (2016) 
Hermaphrodites
The Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology. Vol 2, p. 212-224. 
http://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-800049-6.00160-8

Ramm SA (2016)
Exploring the sexual diversity of flatworms: Ecology, evolution,
and the molecular biology of reproduction.
Molecular Reproduction and Development. http://doi.org/10.1002/mrd.22669

 

Photo: our field site in Paleokastro, central Greece.

 

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CoolidgeLtGov… a joke about former US President Calvin Coolidge …

The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown [separately] around an experimental government farm. When [Mrs. Coolidge] came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, “Dozens of times each day.” Mrs. Coolidge said, “Tell that to the President when he comes by.” Upon being told, the President asked, “Same hen every time?” The reply was, “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time.” President: “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”

(from Wikipedia entries on Calvin Coolidge and the Coolidge Effect, citing Hatfield & Walster’s A New Look At Love)

In biology, the Coolidge Effect was a term originally coined by Frank Beach to refer to the restoration of sexual activity among males that had previously reached sexual satiety when presented with a new female. More recently, that definition has tended to be broadened to encompass all forms of differential investment that males might exhibit towards novel females, and it is increasingly recognised that such investment can take on more cryptic forms. In a new paper together with Klaus Reinhold, Leif Engqvist and Albia Consul, we report one such example of strategic male investment, presenting evidence that male birch catkin bugs mate for longer with novel females.

 Reinhold K, Engqvist L, Consul A, Ramm SA (2015)
 Male birch catkin bugs vary copula duration to invest
 more in matings with novel females.
 Animal Behaviour 109:161–166. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.08.020

Image credit: Calvin and Grace Coolidge, about 1918. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.