Current Research Projects
Individuals that respond to their social and sexual environments gain substantial fitness benefits. We are researching the underlying mechanisms involved, in both sexes. However, little is yet known about the consequences for females of responding directly to the intra- or inter-sexual competitive environment. Nor is it known what are the consequences of indirect responses by females of mating with responding / non-responding males. Using the well-characterised genetics of the fruitfly model system and powerful genetic isoline resources we are conducting BBSRC and NERC-funded projects to conduct hypothesis-driven tests of the significance of the expression of socio-sexual plasticity.
Functions and regulation of seminal fluid proteins
Seminal fluid proteins are far more than a simple sperm buffer. They cause key changes to female behaviour and physiology across a huge variety of animal taxa, including humans. In the fruitfly there are >150 semen proteins making up the transferome. They cause females to lay more eggs, to eat more (and of different types of foods), to be less sexually receptive to males, to switch on immune genes, to retain more sperm in storage, to show altered patterns of water balance and to sleep less. We investigate the functions, control and regulation of this complex and fundamentally important reproductive system.
Gut microbes and mate choice
We have investigated the effects of gut microbes on mate choice in fruitflies and explore these effects in terms of the evolutionary associations between hosts and their symbionts.
Sex differences in lifespan
We test the role of sexual conflict and nutrition in shaping sex differences in lifespan, in NERC funded research.
Genetic control of insect pests
We translate our findings from fundamental research to test and develop new genetic methods for pest insect control.