Evolutionary Ecology

School of Biology . University of St Andrews


Our interests are broad, but many of them involve the behavioural ecology of interactions between different species. We are particularly interested in the types of interactions that are mediated by the senses. Thus,  we are interested in how organisms of one species can find and identify target individuals of another species. Specific examples of this can be found in considering  how predators search for their prey, and how prey are selected to make this task more difficult for their predators (through processes of camouflage, crypsis, masquerade and mimicry). As can be seen from this example co-evolution is a thread running throughout much of the research. We are not only interested in exploitative relationships like predation, but also in mutualisms (like seed dispersal by frugivorous animals). Another theme that runs through this work is the evolution and stability of signalling systems between individuals of different species, and also the selective forces acting on cues that one species can use to make inferences about individuals of another.

We are broad based in terms of the taxonomic groups that interest us, and we are just as interested in plants as animals: as there are complex sensory interactions between plants and herbivores, seed dispersers and pollinators. We are also broadly based in terms of ecosystems, and have worked on marine, freshwater and terrestrial species. Finally, we are broad based in terms of approaches. Although our primary means of investigation is computer and mathematical modelling, we are likely to complement this with field observations, designed experiments and comparative approaches.

Not all our interests fall into this broad umbrella. One notable exception is an interest in experimental design and (especially nonparametric) statistics. Another such exception is an interest in exploring how physical factors (such as heat and water balance) and scaling (particularly large organismal size) influence the selective pressures on individuals.

This is not an exhaustive list and we reserve the right to explore anything scientific that we find interesting. Please explore the detailed research pages for more of an insight into the group’s current and recent science.