Research

We combine the development of theory & statistical tools with
empirical investigations to test hypotheses about how
species interactions drive trait evolution and patterns of biodiversity

Comparative approaches to studying how interspecific interactions affect trait evolution


How does competition between species impact evolution? Phylogenetic analyses provide a powerful way to address this question, yet, relative to approaches for analyzing traits that evolve independently in every species, there are fewer methods for testing whether traits are involved in interspecific interactions. Our research thus combines development of new phylogenetic comparative methods with empirical applications to test hypotheses about the impact of competition on trait evolution at macroevolutionary scales.

Behavioral intereference in rubyspot damselflies

Our research on rubyspot damselflies (Hetaerina spp.) demonstrates how behavioral interference between closely related species has shaped the evolution of traits involved in mediating between-species aggression in males. We have shown, for instance, that variation across sites in levels of reproductive interference (interspecific competition for mating opportunities) predicts the magnitude of interspecific aggression, supporting the hypothesis that interspecific territoriality can be an adaptive response to local mate competition between species.