Dr. Scott Egan, Department of Biosciences, Rice University
Title: “Ecological speciation among herbivorous insect populations”
Abstract: Speciation describes the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise. Understanding the mechanisms contributing to this process is a fundamental question in evolutionary biology. One form of speciation, termed ecological speciation, describes the process by which ecologically based divergent selection between environments leads to the evolution of reproductive barriers between populations. Research on this topic is naturally interdisciplinary and I use a combination of approaches, including field experiments, observations of natural history, lab-based behavioral assays, and genetic and genomic techniques, to better understand how new species evolve in response to divergent selection. Using data from multiple study systems, including Cynipid gall wasps, Chrysomelid leaf beetles, and Tephritid fruit flies, I will present evidence of the critical and diverse role that ecologically driven divergent natural selection can play in the evolution and speciation of plant-feeding insects.