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Overview

Our research focuses on the evolution of animal mating systems and behaviour, and how investment in sex influences reproductive strategies and biological diversity.  In recent years, we have expanded our work to investigate the impacts of environmental change on animal behaviour and the evolutionary process. Research in our group encompasses a wide range of species, from insects to fish. The key research themes are, as follows:

Sexual selection

Sexual selection arises from competition for the opportunity to mate (or, more precisely, to gain access to opposite sex gametes) and is a powerful evolutionary force responsible for many of the most spectacular and complex traits and behaviours found in nature – from the tail of the peacock to the claw-waving display of fiddler crabs. Research in our lab focuses on both the costs and benefits of sexual traits, the reproductive strategies employed by males and females to maximise their reproductive payoffs, and how the behaviour of one sex can influence the other – and shape the course of evolution.

Representative publications

  • Michelangeli, M., Tuomainen, U., Candolin, U., and Wong, B.B.M. 2015. Habitat alteration influences male signalling effort in the Australian desert goby. Behavioral Ecology. 26: 1164-1169.
  • Squires, Z.E., Wong, B.B.M., Norman, M., and Stuart-Fox, D. 2014. Multiple paternity but no evidence of biased sperm use in female dumpling squid Euprymna tasmanica. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 511: 93-103.
  • Mautz, B.S., Wong, B.B.M., Peters, R.A., and Jennions, M.D. 2013. Penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. 110: 6925-6930.
  • Wong, B.B.M., and Candolin, U. 2005 How is female mate choice affected by male competition? Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 80: 559-571.

Parental care

Many animals invest considerable time and effort into raising their young. Looking after offspring confers obvious fitness benefits – but can also be extremely costly for parents. Research in our group focuses on several aspects of parental care, from nest-building behaviour and the reliability of nest structures as extended phenotypic signals to mate dissertion and filial cannibalism.

Representative publications

  • Deal, N., and Wong, B.B.M. In press. How mate availability influences filial cannibalism. Quarterly Review of Biology.
  • Lehtonen, T.K., Sowersby, W., Gagnon, K., and Wong, B.B.M. 2015. Cichlid fish use color as a cue to assess the threat status of heterospecific intruders. American Naturalist. 186: 547-552.
  • Wong, B.B.M., Tuomainen, U., and Candolin, U. 2012. Algal blooms impact the quality of nest construction in three-spined sticklebacks. Animal Behaviour. 84: 1541-1545.
  • Symons, N., Svensson, P.A. and Wong, B.B.M. 2011. Do male desert gobies compromise offspring care to attract additional mating opportunities? Plos One.

Behavioural responses to environmental change

Human activities have caused unprecedented changes to environments worldwide. We are interested in the behavioural consequences of these changes from both an ecological and evolutionary perspective to understand why some species adapt well (and even thrive under human-altered conditions) while others flounder. Our research attempts to uncover the effects of changes in the signalling environment on animal communication and sexual selection, the impact of pollutants and urbanisation on animal behaviour, and the role of behavioural syndromes in the success of biological invasions.

Representative publications

  • Wong, B.B.M., and Candolin, U. 2015. Behavioral responses to changing environments. Behavioral Ecology. 26: 665-673.
  • Lowry, H., Lill, A., and Wong, B.B.M. 2013. Behavioural responses of wildlife to urban environments. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 88: 537-549.
  • Candolin, U. and Wong B.B.M. (eds). 2012. Behavioural responses to a changing world: mechanisms and consequences. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Chapple, D.G., Simmonds, S. and Wong, B.B.M. 2012. Can behavioural and personality traits influence the success of unintentional species introductions? Trend in Ecology and Evolution.

Behavioural ecotoxicology

Contamination of the environment with pollution capable of interfering with hormone signalling is of increasing concern. We are interested in investigating the potential of endocrine disrupting chemicals—particularly those that modify sex steroid signalling, and pharmaceuticals—to alter animal behaviour and, in doing so, impair survival and reproductive fitness in exposed organisms. We test the impacts of environmentally realistic exposures to widespread endocrine disrupting pollutants on traits with direct ecological and evolutionary significance, including processes of sexual selection (e.g. mate choice), antipredator behaviour, sociability, foraging, boldness and activity. We favour a multidisciplinary approach and so also collaboratively investigate the impacts of endocrine disruptors on various additional endpoints, including morphology and physiology, sperm performance, gene expression and histopathology.

Representative publications

  • Tomkins, P., Saaristo, M., Allinson, M., and Wong, B.B.M. 2016. Exposure to an agricultural contaminant, 17B-trenbolone, impairs female mate choice in a freshwater fish. Aquatic Toxicology. 170: 365-370.
  • Bertram, M.G., Saaristo, M., Baumgartner, J.B., Johnstone, C.P., Allinson, M, Allinson, G., and Wong, B.B.M. 2015. Sex in troubled waters: widespread agricultural contaminant disrupts reproductive behaviour in fish. Hormones and Behavior. 70: 85-91.
  • Saaristo, M., Myers, J., Jacques-Hamilton, R., Allinson, M., Yamamoto, A., Allinson, G., Pettigrove, V., and Wong, B.B.M. 2014. Altered reproductive behaviours in male mosquitofish living downstream from a sewage treatment plant. Aquatic Toxicology. 149: 58-64.
  • Saaristo, M., Tomkins, P., Allinson, M., Allinson, G., and Wong B.B.M. 2013. An androgenic agricultural contaminant impairs female reproductive behaviour in a freshwater fish. Plos One. 8: e62782.

(Photo: Topi Lehtonen)