Conflict Between Sexes Could Replace Evolution of New Species

New research shows that males and females of the same species can evolve to be so different that they prevent other species from evolving or colonising habitats, challenging long-held theories on the way natural selection drives the evolution of biodiversity.

According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, first introduced in his book On the Origin of Species (1859), new environments such as mountains and islands with abundant food and habitats, offer species the ‘ecological opportunity’ to colonise an area using those resources.

New research from the UK has shown that exactly the same mechanism of evolution that creates new species also operates within the same species when males and females compete for the ecological resources available in different habitats, such as bushy areas or stony patches with abundant food. The conflict between the sexes can lead to one sex becoming bigger, more colourful or adapting to eat different food, just like a traditional process of evolution by natural selection can lead an ancestor to split into two different species.

This process of evolution between the sexes expands the biodiversity of the area – a development that evolutionary biologists previously thought only occurred when the number of different species using different resources or ‘niches’ increases. This new research challenges that assumption, showing that different species and different sexes of the same species can occupy these niches.

This new research which explored the evolution of lizards in the Chilean Andes Mountains and Argentinean Patagonia, shows that different sexes of the same species can fill niches as well, meaning new species are actively prevented from evolving.

This is because there is no new environment for them to occupy – a necessary condition for new species to evolve under Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Conducted by academics from the Universities of Lincoln, Exeter and Sheffield, the study demonstrated that biodiversity can now be seen as the formation of new, different species, or, as the formation of different sexes which are distinct enough to be equivalent to different species in the way they ‘saturate’ ecological niches.

Dr Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln and lead researcher on the study, said: “Our research reveals evidence for this intriguing phenomenon that the evolution of sexes within a species could replace the evolution of new species, which begins to add a new layer to our understanding of the evolution of biodiversity.

“It is important to stress that the diversity of life on our planet applies not only to the evolution of different species, but also to the independent evolution of males and females within the same species, which potentially has very important implications.”

The findings have been published in the scientific journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Article reblogged from here

All About Bats and Owls: Chris Packham to host FREE Halloween wildlife talk

All About Bats and Owls: Chris Packham leads free Halloween wildlife talkNaturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham will explore the wild side of Halloween with a free-to-attend public lecture and live animal demonstration.On Monday 31st October 2016, Chris – who is a Visiting Professor in the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences – will offer audiences a fascinating insight into the mysterious creatures and animals we traditionally associate with the spooky seasonal celebration.

His talk and demonstration, titled All About Bats and Owls, is free to attend and is open to people of all ages. Places are limited so bookings should be made in advance.

Visitors will learn all about the flying creatures from Chris, who co-hosts the new series of Autumn watch beginning on BBC Two today (Monday 24th October).

He will teach his audience how bats live and help them understand the vital ecological role they play. With support from the Bat Conservation Trust, of which Chris is President, the talk will give audiences the chance to observe a live demonstration of pipistrelle bats.

Chris said: “Bats have so many attributes which tickle the naturalist’s fancy. Many of them look quirky so we are fascinated by their bizarre physiology and, relative to so many other animals, they are inaccessible and this tantalises us as we struggle to know them better.”

Chris will also be joined on stage by Derek Tindall Birds of Prey, who will show a fascinating ensemble of birds including a barn owl, great grey owl, Eurasian eagle owl and African spotted eagle.

The free public event follows the recent ‘BioBlitz’ survey of on-campus flora and fauna, which Chris led as part of his role as Visiting Professor at the University of Lincoln. Chris and students carried out pond dipping, mud and water sampling, bird calling and spotting, and insect and moth trapping to uncover what creatures live in the natural habitats around campus.

All About Bats and Owls is part of the University of Lincoln’s flagship Great Minds free public guest lecture series, which aims to provide inspirational insights into different aspects of society – from the entertainment world to elite sport. Admission is free but prior booking is essential. This season’s Great Minds series has so far included talks from Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, Chancellor of the University of Lincoln and a cross bench member of the House of Lords, and Rory Underwood MBE, one of England’s most successful international rugby players.

For more information about All About Bats and Owls and to book your place, visit the website, email or phone 01522 837100.

An amazing placement opportunity for one life sciences student

Scottish Lowland Research have one placement on offer at their Trust in Scotland and it could be yours!


The sandwich placement on offer is for a student to undertake research in Scotland relating to lowland game and wildlife and the habitats they share, in particular woodlands and farmland. The research is applied and based on a fieldwork data-collection programme.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is an independent wildlife conservation charity. Its 60 scientists carry out research into game, associated species and habitats, from its HQ at Fordingbridge, Hampshire and at outstations throughout the country. The Trust’s main areas of interest encompass farmland, moorland, woodland and river management for game and other wildlife.

If interested please send your CV to Dave Parish as soon as possible: 

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Ryan Burrel said: “We have found sandwich students to be an extremely valuable addition to our teams and we have enjoyed working with them and you (University of Lincoln). We as an organisation feel the students get invaluable experience in wildlife conservation research from these opportunities, which is a great asset when they enter the field, be it related or not.”


Placement information

“We have one opening at our new Cromar Farming With Nature (CFWN) project in Aberdeenshire. This comprises the Game and Wildlife Scottish Demonstration Farm and the MacRobert Trust land nearby. These two areas combine to provide a huge study site supporting a wide diversity of habitats and wildlife. On both areas we are working to collect baseline data ahead of devising a new management plan for both sites. This offers a rare opportunity to collect valuable data on a host of taxa, from bumblebees and bugs, to pine marten and squirrels, and raptors and waders.

The CFWN team consists of two permanent staff plus several students and volunteer staff. The placements would be based at GWSDF where we have an office and accommodation, plus a truck for use if necessary. We could pay a stipend of £89 per week of the placement and all accommodation bills would be covered.

We could accommodate placements for up to a year if required, or shorter periods as necessary. The successful candidate would be involved mostly with field work but also some data handling and analysis. Overall you should be able to get and hence expand your experience in ecological experimental design, database construction and data analysis, field work techniques including wildlife surveys, maybe using GPS and GIS. We would endeavour to match your interests to the project as far as possible. There may be the opportunity to work on more than one project within the Scottish Lowland Research department, or between departments within The GWCT as a whole.

We require confident and able students with an interest in ecology and in working outdoors for a placement in 2016/17. Some data handling and analysis skills might be useful as would bird ID or other field skills.

Send your CV as soon as possible to be considered – Good Luck!

Read more about the placement here: GWCT_UndergraduatePlacement_2016_ScottishLowlandResearch

Ecology field trip to Malham

Life Sciences students taking the Evolution and Ecology module took a beautiful field trip to Malham, in Yorkshire to study field ecology, landscape and conservation.

Around 100 first year students spent 3 days on site studying the habitats and nature and saw some wonderful sights.

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They looked at different groups of organisms in different habitats including ferns living in cracks in the limestone pavement, aquatic invertebrates in streams, and terrestrial invertebrates inhabiting forests and meadows.

One activity consisted of investigating the ferns found in the limestone pavement. The limestone pavement is an unusual geological formation found in few places around England.

After a relatively short walk from the Youth Hostel where the group stayed, they arrived in front of Malham Cove, a former waterfall with an impressive view, house of a pair of peregrine falcons with their two chicks.

The group were able to observe the birds thanks to some volunteers with telescopes, very eager to share they knowledge about these fantastic creatures with visitors.

Climbing the stairway to the top of the Cove, where the limestone pavement is found, students had to find and identify three different fern species (Wall rue, Hart’s tongue, and Maidenhair) and take several measurements to determine the environment they grow in.

Another activity was to sample aquatic invertebrates found in streams and compare their diversity levels in different parts of the river. Students had to wear wellingtons and get into the stream to collect samples that later on they identified.

The third activity consisted of collecting terrestrial invertebrates from a forest and a meadow using sweep nets, identified them, and compared the diversity levels found in both environments.

On the last day, the students presented their findings with wonderful presentations. 

Field trip to Boggle Hole

Students will visit Boggle Hole for a field trip in May

In May, 120 Second Year Life Sciences students will embark upon a residential field trip to Boggle Hole as part of their ecology unit.

The trip allows students to consolidate the knowledge and skills they have acquired during the first two years of their degree and apply these to answering questions relevant to ecology.

Students will assess how biodiversity relates to the physical environment and how competition for resources can limit population growth. A key feature of the trip is that students are given the opportunity to design their own studies in order to test hypotheses about the distribution, abundance and behaviour of organisms.

Previous student projects have examined the effect of shell size on hermit crab manoeuvrability, circadian rhythms and barnacle activity, predator-prey relationships and the habitat preferences of bats.

Project leader Paul Eady says: “Getting students away from their normal place of study and into a beautiful, biologically rich environment is a great way to inspire and engage students. They really enjoy developing their own ideas.

“The sequence of developing a hypothesis, designing and performing experiments and collecting data to evaluate the hypothesis lies at the heart of the Life Sciences. Thus, in completing their projects and reflecting on the process, students will learn a great deal about the scientific method that can be applied to their honours projects when they return after the summer break.”

Boggle Hole is a great place to undertake ecology projects
Boggle Hole is a great place to undertake ecology projects