My research generally explores the innate differences between males and females and how the environment, both social and ecological, modifies these differences. Often, changes in the sex ratio or density of the competitors or mates that are available for each individual can have dramatic consequences for evolution. It is this difference that determines the strength of sexual selection is and how it shapes traits and behaviours.
The majority of my research uses spiders and crickets to examine the traits that successfully ensure males are able to navigate their environment to find mates and defend these mates from rivals. Interestingly, I found that contests are often solved by more than physical size alone, with factors such as the quality of the female or prior residency having enormous effects.
But the most interesting is the effect that previous experience has on how individuals perform in the future. Individuals that have just won a contest are significantly more likely to win their subsequent contest than determined by chance. Losers experience a similar but opposite effect with being more likely to lose their subsequent contest. These effects degrade over time at different rates, but rarely lasting over 24 hours.
This experience effect is something that I have begun to explore in humans and I think may hold the key to understanding why we love to play video games and gender differences in gaming preferences.
If you’re interested in more of my research, you can find greater information about it here, although some of it will permeate this blog every so often.