Home page of the WEB group in the School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Hull, UK. We are interested in arthropod ecology and evolution – particularly reproductive strategies and life histories. We are especially interested in how animals’ nutritional ecology affects (and is affected by) the evolution of sociality and parental care.
September 2016: New paper in press! (Santos et al 2016, see Publications). Using a powerful meta-analysis of published experiments, we show that parental care in insects is more beneficial in the tropics, where the activity of predators is more intense. However, this is only the case in species whose eggs would be completely undefended without their parents. If parents also dig burrows, make nests, or cover eggs with mucus or glue, then this effect is not evident. This is one of the first pieces of real evidence in the jigsaw of demonstrating how parental care actually evolves in nature.
February 2016: New MS on bioRxiv (Gilbert et al, see Publications). We show that some cofoundress thrips within communal domiciles on Australian acacias are often nonreproductive, indicating reproductive skew. This skew increases in small nests and with more females cohabiting. This finding edges us closer to an appreciation of how and why these tiny insects are sometimes social but sometimes solitary.
October 2015: Welcome to new PhD students Alex and Catherine! We are officially a research group. Alex will work on nutritional ecology of solitary bees, while Catherine is working on modelling responses of insects across the phylogeny (and their enemies) to host plant density and purity.
September 2015: New paper in press (Field et al 2015, see Publications). We use data on male and female body size across the phylogeny of the digger wasps Ammophila spp. to show that sexual dimorphism is associated with the size of prey that females have to physically drag to the nest. Where females fly lots of small prey to the nest, males and females are relatively equally sized, but where females have to haul one very large prey over the ground, females are typically much bigger than males.