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Three perspectives on multilevel selection: an experimental, historical, and synthetic analysis of group-level selection

Description

During the 1960s, the long-standing idea that traits or behaviors could be

explained by natural selection acting on traits that persisted "for the good of the group" prompted a series of debates about group-level selection and the effectiveness with which natural

During the 1960s, the long-standing idea that traits or behaviors could be

explained by natural selection acting on traits that persisted "for the good of the group" prompted a series of debates about group-level selection and the effectiveness with which natural selection could act at or across multiple levels of biological organization. For some this topic remains contentious, while others consider the debate settled, even while disagreeing about when and how resolution occurred, raising the question: "Why have these debates continued?"

Here I explore the biology, history, and philosophy of the possibility of natural selection operating at levels of biological organization other than the organism by focusing on debates about group-level selection that have occurred since the 1960s. In particular, I use experimental, historical, and synthetic methods to review how the debates have changed, and whether different uses of the same words and concepts can lead to different interpretations of the same experimental data.

I begin with the results of a group-selection experiment I conducted using the parasitoid wasp Nasonia, and discuss how the interpretation depends on how one conceives of and defines a "group." Then I review the history of the group selection controversy and argue that this history is best interpreted as multiple, interrelated debates rather than a single continuous debate. Furthermore, I show how the aspects of these debates that have changed the most are related to theoretical content and empirical data, while disputes related to methods remain largely unchanged. Synthesizing this material, I distinguish four different "approaches" to the study of multilevel selection based on the questions and methods used by researchers, and I use the results of the Nasonia experiment to discuss how each approach can lead to different interpretations of the same experimental data. I argue that this realization can help to explain why debates about group and multilevel selection have persisted for nearly sixty years. Finally, the conclusions of this dissertation apply beyond evolutionary biology by providing an illustration of how key concepts can change over time, and how failing to appreciate this fact can lead to ongoing controversy within a scientific field.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2014

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Ecosystem Impacts of Consumer Evolution: Intraspecific Variation in the Elemental Phenotype of Aquatic Consumers

Description

Primary production in aquatic ecosystems is often limited by the availability of nitrogen (N) and/or phosphorus (P). Animals can substantially alter the relative availability of these nutrients by storing and recycling them in differential ratios. Variation in these stoichiometric traits,

Primary production in aquatic ecosystems is often limited by the availability of nitrogen (N) and/or phosphorus (P). Animals can substantially alter the relative availability of these nutrients by storing and recycling them in differential ratios. Variation in these stoichiometric traits, i.e., the elemental phenotype, within a species can link organismal evolution to ecosystem function. I examined the drivers of intraspecific variation in the elemental phenotype of aquatic consumers to test for the generality of these effects. Over a thermal gradient in Panamá, I found that average specific growth grate and body P content of the mayfly Thraulodes increased with environmental temperature, but that these patterns were due to site-specific differences rather than the direct effects of warmer temperature. In a meta-analysis of published studies, I found that in fishes intraspecific variation in dietary N:P ratio had a significant effect on excretion N:P ratio, but only when accounting for consumption. I tested for the effects of variation in consumption on excretion N:P ratio among populations of the fish Gambusia marshi in the Cuatro Ciénegas basin in Coahuila, Mexico. G. marshi inhabits warm groundwater-fed springs where it often co-occurs with predatory fishes and cool runoff-dominated wetlands which lack predators. Using stoichiometric models, I generated predictions for how variation in environmental temperature and predation pressure would affect the N:P ratio recycled by fishes. Adult female G. marshi excretion N:P ratio was higher in runoff-dominated sites, which was consistent with predators driving increased consumption rates by G. marshi. This result was supported by a diet ration manipulation experiment in which G. marshi raised on an ad libitum diet excreted N:P at a lower ratio than fish raised on a restricted diet ration. To further support the impacts of predation on phenotypic diversification in G. marshi, I examined how body morphology varied among habitats and among closely related species. Both among and within species, predation had stronger effects on morphology than the physical environment. Overall, these results suggest that predation, not temperature, has strong effects on these phenotypic traits of aquatic consumers which can alter their role in ecosystem nutrient cycling through variation in consumption rates.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2017

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Evolutionary Genetics of CORL Proteins

Description

Transgenic experiments in Drosophila have proven to be a useful tool aiding in the

determination of mammalian protein function. A CNS specific protein, dCORL is a

member of the Sno/Ski family. Sno acts as a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling.

dCORL is involved in

Transgenic experiments in Drosophila have proven to be a useful tool aiding in the

determination of mammalian protein function. A CNS specific protein, dCORL is a

member of the Sno/Ski family. Sno acts as a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling.

dCORL is involved in Dpp and dActivin signaling, but the two homologous mCORL

protein functions are unknown. Conducting transgenic experiments in the adult wings,

and third instar larval brains using mCORL1, mCORL2 and dCORL are used to provide

insight into the function of these proteins. These experiments show mCORL1 has a

different function from mCORL2 and dCORL when expressed in Drosophila. mCORL2

and dCORL have functional similarities that are likely conserved. Six amino acid

substitutions between mCORL1 and mCORL2/dCORL may be the reason for the

functional difference. The evolutionary implications of this research suggest the

conservation of a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling that predates the divergence of

arthropods and vertebrates.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2019