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Durham University

Evolutionary Architecture of Reproduction in Female Mammals


Durham University Investigators

Dr Isabella Capellini

I am interested in how ecology shapes variation in morphology, physiology and behaviour among species. I worked with Prof. Robert Barton on the evolution of reproduction in female mammals (BBRSC/NERC grant BB/E0145931/1), and I tested hypotheses on the correlated evolution of maternal prenatal and postnatal investment and offspring development, and how these traits are influenced by maternal-offspring conflict, sibling competition and parasite pressure. I am currently a lecturer at the University of Hull where I am continuing with my work on the evolution of prenatal and postnatal reproductive strategies in mammals, as well as building up new research projects.

I previously tested adaptive hypotheses for the evolution of sleep in mammals with the 'Phylogeny of Sleep: the correlated evolution of sleep, brain and behaviour' project (NIH grant n. 1 R01 MH070415-01A1; 1 million $) in collaboration with Dr. McNamara (Boston University), Prof. Robert Barton (Durham University), Dr. Charles Nunn (Harvard) and Dr. Brian Preston (MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig). We showed that ecological pressures - predation risk, sociality, foraging niche and parasite pressure - strongly influence the evolution of sleep times in mammals, and determine how sleep is organized within the 24-hours period. With my PhD at Newcastle University, 'Evolutionary ecology of the hartebeest', I showed that body size in this group of antelopes is evolutionary associated with habitat productivity, and that investment in horns and weaponry is promoted by sexual selection but opposed by limited habitat productivity.

Prof Robert A. Barton

Robert A. Barton is interested in behavioural ecology, primate evolution and adaptation, brain evolution, evolutionary neuroscience, human behaviour and sexual selection. His early work was on the behavioural ecology of baboons (Papio anubis), and in particular examined the dynamics of competition and social relationships among females. More recent work uses phylogenetic comparative methods to study brain evolution, the evolution of sleep, metabolic scaling, and mammalian reproductive strategies.

External Project Collaborators

Mr. Stephen Montgomery - Cambridge University

Dr. Nick Mundy - Cambridge University

Dr. Charles Nunn - Harvard University

Dr. Chris Venditti - University of Reading