Department of Biology & Biochemistry

Newton Fellowship to investigate sex role evolution

Wed Dec 16 15:19:00 GMT 2015

Professor Tamás Székely has won a prestigious Newton Advanced Fellowship. His co-awardee is Dr Alejandro Gonzalez Voyer of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Together they will seek to answer a fundamental question in evolutionary biology.

The project will be among the most ambitious yet to understand sex roles. In many species, males compete for females while investing little time in offspring. Females tend to be choosy and invest a lot in offspring care.

Yet these roles are sometimes reversed, with females competing for males who care for young. Tamás and Alejandro want to understand what selective processes are behind such behavioural differences.

Two painted snipes wadingThey will use data from several thousand bird species globally to test the influence of ecological and life-history variables on sex roles.

A fundamental mystery

“We seek to address one of the fundamental questions in evolutionary biology,” said Tamás. “What determines the stunning variation in mating and parental care patterns across species?

“I am delighted to host Dr Gonzalez-Voyer as a Newton Fellow, and look forward to this exciting new project.”

Newton Fellowships are jointly awarded by The Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy and the Royal Society.

Image: Painted snipes exhibit sex role reversal: the female (left) is more ornamented than the male, and she is the dominant sex in reproduction. Credit: Dan Smith