BBSRC/NERC (£249,647) 2008 - 2010
R. Barton & I. Capellini
The ways in which which female mammals produce offspring are shaped by natural selection in a very direct fashion: the genes of offspring that are too small to survive or too large or numerous for their mothers to successfully rear, would quickly disappear from a population. And yet mandifferent ways of producing offspring have evolved in mammals. Adult female short-tailed shrews and big brown bats both weight about 16 grams, yet the bat has a gestation twice as long as that of the shrews, and gives birth to young that are more than three times heavier. The shrew, on the other hand, produces litters of up to nine offspring, whilst the bat gives birth to singletons. These differences lie at opposite ends of a continuum of reproductive strategies. How and why did such differences evolve? We aim to answer those questions through the most detailed and comprehensive comparative study of mammalian female reproduction and offspring development yet undertaken. We will build a large database of reproductive and developmental characteristics, such as the type of placenta, the length of gestation, the size of newborn offspring and the rates of development. We will then use this database to study the evolution of reproductive strategies. For example, we will test hypotheses on the fascinating variation in the form of the placenta in different mammals and the implications this has for offspring development. We will examine how prenatal characteristics (such as gestation length) relate to offspring development and postnatal characteristics (such as neonatal size and age at weaning). And we will test hypotheses on the co-evolution of maternal and offspring strategies and on the effects of disease load. The data we gather will be made available to other scientists by placing it on the web, providing both information on individual species, and a resource for future comparative studies.
Cercopithecine models as a contextual framework for human evolution
Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant (£214,987).
Human Migration and Evolution along the Indian Ocean Rim: Genetics, Morphometrics and Palaeoenvironment
NERC EFCHED Initiative (£140,000)
Capacity building in mammal management for Western Cape nature reserves
Darwin Initiative Project Grant (£98,306)
Identifying social learning in animal populations: implications for culture
The Royal Society (£309,056). 2007 - 2011