Lecturer in Animal Diversity, University of Oxford
Across the animal kingdom, competition among females for resources necessary for reproduction has the potential to be a major force shaping the evolution of social behaviour and mating systems, but the causes and consequences of such competition are poorly understood. In particular, a number of major questions surrounding female competition remain unanswered: how do females manage trade-offs between competition and reproduction, how does competition among females impact on male reproductive success, and do males and females use different strategies to compete? The DPhil project, defined in discussions with the student, will provide an opportunity to tackle such questions in the cichlid fish Lamprologus ocellatus, where females compete for access to empty snail shells, in which they live and breed. Laboratory-based behavioural experiments will be used to determine how female competition affects the fitness of both sexes. At the same time, there will be the opportunity to explore the proximate mechanisms governing female competition using a combination of cutting-edge high-speed video analysis to analyse contests between females and mathematical modelling to explore the rules that underpin such contests.
Associated Research Streams
social behaviour, mating systems, sexual selection, competition, fish