Zac Wylde
PhD Candidate
Contact details:
+61 0416 462 673
Level 5 West
Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052

My research in the Bonduriansky lab aims to examine the context-dependence of sexual selection. How does the physical and ecological environment affect life history traits such as aggressive and sexual behaviours, competitive fertilisation and the expression of pheromones? What can this tell us about the mechanics of sexual selection and how we perceive and gauge this dynamic process?

Primarily I am looking at these questions by manipulating the resources available to our study organism throughout its development, by means of dietary restriction. Dietary restriction is a powerful technique that allows us to see how particular traits respond to nutrient deprivation or alternatively nutrient excess. If an organism is nutrient-deprived throughout development, what strategies might it take up to buffer this disadvantage and how does this environment affect the trajectories of adult phenotypes, behaviour and fitness traits? Aspects of an organisms social environment, both during development and adulthood have also been shown to have important impacts upon body size and behaviour. However, some of the proximate mechanisms that underlie these effects are still not understood.

I am looking at these questions and a number of others by conducting a number of laboratory experiments using the Neriid fly Telostylinus angusticollis. This species has been developed in the Bonduriansky lab for the study of condition-dependent effects on life history traits. T. angusticollis is sexually dimorphic in size, shape and armament and males of the species have been observed to fight for territories or access to females at oviposition sites. Although much research has shown that males vary largely in body size and shape, and that these size differences can be passed on non-genetically (independent of larval nutritional diet), little is known as to how size/condition is affected by social aspects during development such as larval density and how this might influence behavioural syndromes/ tactics during adulthood. I will also be looking at post-copulatory sexual selection and its possible link to male condition through a series of experiments that track competing sperm through the female reproductive tract and storage organs using confocal microscopy.

See also:

Primary Supervisor: Associate Professor Russell Bonduriansky

Co-supervisor/s: Dr Angela Crean