1. What is the spatial and temporal scale of variation in mating traits and preferences?
Is the variance within populations trivial or substantial compared to the difference between populations? What is the interannual variation in traits and preferences? Do populations show increased differentiation over time and space or is intraspecific variation low compared to the divergence between reproductively isolated species?
2. How do organisms integrate signals to make decisions?
How are multiple signals handled in the decision-making process? Is the relative importance of the signals condition-dependent? Does the weighting of signals differ among populations based on the sensory environment and evolutionary history of the population?
3. What is the relationship between sexual selection and species recognition?
Sexual selection and species recognition are often considered as interrelated processes (as in speciation by sexual selection), yet the conventional predictions about these processes are different in many scenarios.
- Sexual selection involves choice among conspecifics on the basis of variation within the population. As such, sexual selection is predicted to act on characteristics that have relatively high phenotypic variation.
- Species recognition acts to separate one group (genetically compatible conspecifics) from another group (heterospecifics). In certain situations, this is predicted to favor the evolution of a low variation species-specific character or characters.
Through a combination of empirical research and mathematical modeling, I am investigating the importance of several factors (species composition, geographic distribution) in mediating the interaction of sexual selection and species recognition.
4. Do species-rich communities have more energetically intensive signals than depauperate communities?
If acoustic signal space is a limiting resource, are low energy communication channels used preferrentially with more metabolically expensive signals evolving in communities where acoustic space is heavily used?