Project title: Sexual Selection and Macroevolution
Summary: Sexual selection has long been recognised as an important driver of evolution, and is known to be an important influence on the morphology and behaviour of living organisms. In living animals it is possible to test behavioural hypotheses of sexual selection, since behaviour can be observed and conditions can be experimentally manipulated. The long term macroevolutionary effects of sexual selection are much more difficult to observe because they operate on timescales far longer than it is practical to work on. Theoretical work has suggested that sexual selection can possibly influence speciation, adaptation and extinction rates, but these predictions remain largely untested.
The fossil record provides a potential solution for testing macroevolutionary hypotheses regarding sexual selection over millions of years. Recent studies have suggested that the growth patterns of cranial ornamentation in Ceratopsian dinosaurs resemble the growth patterns predicted for a trait under sexual selection.
In this project, I aim to use two- and three-dimensional morphometrics to test macroevolutionary hypotheses of sexual selection in sexually selected features of extant and extinct species. In addition, I will use theoretical modelling to test hypotheses of the ecological drivers of mutual sexual selection.