Evolutionary and Behavioral Research Lab

                                                                Deanna Soper                        Dr. Soper (left) with her research student Colette Ohotnicky (right).  

In my lab my students and I investigate how host/parasite coevolution influences the evolution of reproduction.  Specifically, we focus on the genetic advantages of polyandrous behavior by sexual females.  When females mate multiply (polyandry), they increase the genetic diversity of their resulting broods and invoke post-copulatory sexual selection.  Increased genetic diversity within broods can lead to an advantage for hosts under parasitic selective pressure.  In addition, increased post-copulatory sexual selection can lead to an increased selective pressure on males to evolve particular reproductive traits.  ISnailn my lab, I primarily use Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a freshwater snail from New Zealand, to test the questions of whether polyandry leads to a reduction in disease prevalence and alterations to male reproductive traits.  The snail we use is small (3-5mm) and is known to undergo host/parasite coevolution in some endemic populations.  It is also known to have high levels of multiple paternity and mate choice. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Image of Potamopyrgus antipodarum

Current Projects include:                                                                

  • Male genital structure and morphology
  • Mate choice under parasitic exposure
  • Habitat utilization under parasitic exposure and infection

Potamopyrgus antipodarum is an interesting snail to study because it has several characteristics that are uncommon in other snail species.  For example, this snail is dioecious, meaning that sexual females produce on average 50% male, 50% female.  Males can be identified through external genitalia, which they use to internally fertilize females.  Females do not lay eggs, but rather undergo "pregnancy" (internal gestation), give live birth, and baby snails can sometimes be born in their gestational sac (see video link below).


I also collaborate with Dr. William Cody (UD) and Dr. Nicole Phillips (UNT) using Drosophila melanogaster and Pseudomonas aeruginosa to investigate life history and reproductive traits under host/pathogen coevolution.    



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