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Benjamin Taylor
Evolution of sex, conflict and cooperation
PhD Research
Evolution and Adaptation

The evolution and mechanisms of post-reproductive lifespan in the Panamanian paper wasp Polistes canadensis

There are many different ways in which organisms can pass on their genes. In animals one of the most important distinctions is between direct fitness strategies, in which individuals focus on increasing their own reproductive output, and indirect fitness strategies in which individuals focus on increasing the reproductive output of relatives, with whom they share genes. Indirect fitness strategies have been very important in the diversification of animal life, yet the ecological circumstances and genetic mechanisms that have allowed such strategies to evolve are only partially understood. In this project I will investigate the evolution of indirect fitness strategies using a simple eusocial insect as a model system. Using a combination of field experiments, lab analyses and theoretical modelling, I will investigate how and why subordinate individuals of the paper wasp Polistes canadensis lose their capacity for direct fitness benefits as they age. Understanding why this shift towards a committed indirect reproductive strategy occurs as these individuals age will offer key insights into the evolution of the worker caste in eusocial insects.
Seirian Sumner
Max Reuter
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