If distantly related species from different evolutionary starting points are exposed to the same selection pressures, do they evolve similar adaptive solutions? This research examines an important question in evolutionary biology - how repeatable is evolution? - and uses a new model to explore the origins of biodiversity - animal communication. Specifically, this work focusses on the unusual gliding lizards of Southeast Asia that perform elaborate headbobbing and extend a brightly coloured dewlap during territory communication. The research uses sophisticated motion and colour analysis to quantify lizard displays, robotics to "play back" displays to lizards in the wild, and reconstructions of the evolutionary history of complex behaviour onto phylogenetic trees. The goals are to reveal how evolution generates biodiversity and how the adaptability of communication systems might aid in buffering populations against extinction in changing environments.
Investigators: Dr Terry Ord and Danielle Klomp