Evolution & Biodiversity in Animal Sciences
Animal Sciences’ contributions to the Evolution & Biodiversity research theme include evo-devo research, the evolution of cognitive and behavioural traits, and the evolutionary mechanisms of stress adaptation. This research involves both indoor and outdoor studies.
An example of evo-devo research is the comparative embryology of birds and reptiles to understand the evolution of limb development. Another example is the study of evolutionary novelties, such as the insect egg membrane that enabled the transition from water to land. A computational approach is taken to model the origins of multicellular life. Genomic data are used to study gene flow between closely related species in hybrid zones and genomic re-arrangements in balanced lethal systems.
The research on cognitive and behavioural traits addresses similarities between human speech and bird song, including grammatical and musical abilities. Birds are also used to study the evolution and phenotypic plasticity of sexually selected sensory traits and the evolution of acoustic signals. Research into stress adaption focuses on the impact that noise related to human activities has on birds and underwater animals (fish, sea mammals). Finally, the zebrafish is used as a model to study to stress coping styles and the relationship with the biological clock.