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A practical and theoretical approach to understanding the selective mechanisms behind genetic caste determination in Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Pogonomyrmex barbatus

Description

Gene-centric theories of evolution by natural selection have been popularized and remain generally accepted in both scientific and public paradigms. While gene-centrism is certainly parsimonious, its explanations fall short of

Gene-centric theories of evolution by natural selection have been popularized and remain generally accepted in both scientific and public paradigms. While gene-centrism is certainly parsimonious, its explanations fall short of describing two patterns of evolutionary and social phenomena: the evolution of sex and the evolution of social altruism. I review and analyze current theories on the evolution of sex. I then introduce the conflict presented to gene-centric evolution by social phenomena such as altruism and caste sterility in eusocial insects. I review gene-centric models of inclusive fitness and kin selection proposed by Hamilton and Maynard Smith. Based their assumptions, that relatedness should be equal between sterile workers and reproductives, I present several empirical examples that conflict with their models. Following that, I introduce a unique system of genetic caste determination (GCD) observed in hybrid populations of two sister-species of seed harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Pogonomyrmex barbatus. I review the evidence for GCD in those species, followed by a critique of the current gene-centric models used to explain it. In chapter two I present my own theoretical model that is both simple and extricable in nature to explain the origin, evolution, and maintenance of GCD in Pogonomyrmex. Furthermore, I use that model to fill in the gaps left behind by the contributing authors of the other GCD models. As both populations in my study system formed from inter-specific hybridization, I review modern discussions of heterosis (also called hybrid vigor) and use those to help explain the ecological competitiveness of GCD. I empirically address the inbreeding depression the lineages of GCD must overcome in order to remain ecologically stable, demonstrating that as a result of their unique system of caste determination, GCD lineages have elevated recombination frequencies. I summarize and conclude with an argument for why GCD evolved under selective mechanisms which cannot be considered gene-centric, providing evidence that natural selection can effectively operate on non-heritable genotypes appearing in groups and other social contexts.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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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

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

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Development, evolution, and teeth: how we came to explain the morphological evolution of the mammalian dentition

Description

This dissertation begins to lay out a small slice of the history of morphological research, and how it has changed, from the late 19th through the close of the 20th

This dissertation begins to lay out a small slice of the history of morphological research, and how it has changed, from the late 19th through the close of the 20th century. Investigators using different methods, addressing different questions, holding different assumptions, and coming from different research fields have pursued morphological research programs, i.e. research programs that explore the process of changing form. Subsequently, the way in which investigators have pursued and understood morphology has witnessed significant changes from the 19th century to modern day research. In order to trace this shifting history of morphology, I have selected a particular organ, teeth, and traced a tendril of research on the dentition beginning in the late 19th century and ending at the year 2000. But even focusing on teeth would be impossible; the scope of research on this organ is far too vast. Instead, I narrow this dissertation to investigation of research on a particular problem: explaining mammalian tooth morphology. How researchers have investigated mammalian tooth morphology and what counts as an explanation changed dramatically during this period.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2017

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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

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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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Investigating wasp societies: a historical and epistemological study

Description

The study of wasp societies (family Vespidae) has played a central role in advancing our knowledge of why social life evolves and how it functions. This dissertation asks: How have

The study of wasp societies (family Vespidae) has played a central role in advancing our knowledge of why social life evolves and how it functions. This dissertation asks: How have scientists generated and evaluated new concepts and theories about social life and its evolution by investigating wasp societies? It addresses this question both from a narrative/historical and from a reflective/epistemological perspective. The historical narratives reconstruct the investigative pathways of the Italian entomologist Leo Pardi (1915-1990) and the British evolutionary biologist William D. Hamilton (1936-2000). The works of these two scientists represent respectively the beginning of our current understanding of immediate and evolutionary causes of social life. Chapter 1 shows how Pardi, in the 1940s, generated a conceptual framework to explain how wasp colonies function in terms of social and reproductive dominance. Chapter 2 shows how Hamilton, in the 1960s, attempted to evaluate his own theory of inclusive fitness by investigating social wasps. The epistemological reflections revolve around the idea of investigative framework for theory evaluation. Chapter 3 draws on the analysis of important studies on social wasps from the 1960s and 1970s and provides an account of theory evaluation in the form of an investigative framework. The framework shows how inferences from empirical data (bottom-up) and inferences from the theory (top-down) inform one another in the generation of hypotheses, predictions and statements about phenomena of social evolution. It provides an alternative to existing philosophical accounts of scientific inquiry and theory evaluation, which keep a strong, hierarchical distinction between inferences from the theory and inferences from the data. The historical narratives in this dissertation show that important scientists have advanced our knowledge of complex biological phenomena by constantly interweaving empirical, conceptual, and theoretical work. The epistemological reflections argue that we need holistic frameworks that account for how multiple scientific practices synergistically contribute to advance our knowledge of complex phenomena. Both narratives and reflections aim to inspire and inform future work in social evolution capitalizing on lessons learnt from the past.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2016