PHENOTYPIC PLASTICITY AND ADAPTATION
The ability to predict evolutionary responses to environmental change is of central importance for conservation efforts. In light of global climate change, there is now a pressing need to understand how organisms might adapt to changes in temperature. I am using Icelandic populations of three-spined sticklebacks from low-temperature lakes and adjacent high-temperature geothermal ponds to address the following questions:
1) Is there parallel divergence in the morphology, physiology, and behaviour of sticklebacks inhabiting contrasting thermal regimes?
2) Does phenotypic plasticity aid or impede evolutionary adaptation to changing temperatures?
3) Do plastic responses to temperature in some traits limit the potential for plasticity and adaptation in other traits?
FAMILY INTERACTIONS AND INBREEDING DEPRESSION
The severity of inbreeding depression can vary substantially both among and within species. This variation has been attributed to differences in the physical or social environment. I conducted a series of experiments to investigate how family interactions, such as parental care and sibling competition, affect the magnitude of inbreeding depression.
Pilakouta N, Jamieson S, Moorad JA, Smiseth PT (2015) Parental care buffers against inbreeding depression in burying beetles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:8031-8035.
Pilakouta N, Sieber DJ, Smiseth PT (2016) Sibling competition does not exacerbate inbreeding depression in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 29:704-710.
Pilakouta N, Smiseth PT (2016) Maternal effects alter the severity of inbreeding depression in the offspring. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 20161023.
SEXUAL CONFLICT BETWEEN PARENTS
Sexual conflict arises when males and females have divergent reproductive interests. It can occur prior to mating (e.g., male harassment and female resistance), during mating (e.g., duration of copulation), or after offspring have hatched or been born (e.g., contribution to parental care by each sex). I examined sexual conflict over parental care and consumption of a shared breeding resource, using small and large males and females to introduce variation in the parents' quality.
Pilakouta N, Richardson J, Smiseth PT (2015) State-dependent cooperation in burying beetles: parents adjust their contribution towards care based on both their own and their partner’s size. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28:1965-1974.
Pilakouta N, Richardson J, Smiseth PT (2016) If you eat, I eat: resolution of sexual conflict over consumption from a shared resource. Animal Behaviour 111:175-180.
PLASTICITY IN FEMALE MATING PREFERENCES
Females typically prefer conspicuous males but tend to reverse this preference in the presence of predators because of a higher risk of predation due to associating with conspicuous males. I investigated (i) how long this reversal in mating preferences persists after exposure to a predator and (ii) whether females might choose an inconspicuous heterospecific male over a conspicuous conspecific male when there is a high risk of predation.
Pilakouta N, Alonzo SH (2014) Predator exposure leads to a short-term reversal in female mate preferences in the green swordtail, Xiphophorus helleri. Behavioral Ecology 25:306-312.
Pilakouta N, Correa MA, Alonzo SH (2017) Predation risk reduces a female preference for heterospecific males in the green swordtail. Ethology 123:95-104.