New incubators arrive!

After a long wait, my new incubators arrived yesterday! Now we just have to wait until the new insect room is ready for them…

TED-ED video!

Last week we (me and Susana Freitas) published a short video examining why some animals reproduce without sex for TED-ED.

Thanks to all the TED-ED team for making such a cool animation!

ASAB at Bangor

Last week we (myself, Richard Holland, Katherine Jones, Graeme Shannon, Kirsty MacLeod, Ewa Krzyszczyk, Caroline Bettridge, and Alexander Georgiev) hosted the Spring ASAB (Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour) conference at Bangor University.

It was great to hear the exciting work being done by so many students and great to be involved in organising a conference I first attended in 2009 (though it did make me feel very old)!

It was also great to attend a conference in person – long may it continue!

Two new preprints!

Last week we managed to get out two new preprints!

Firstly, are parthenogenetic species avoiding the costs of parthenogenesis by having cryptic sex?

In our new paper, we screen for genetic signatures of cryptic sex in eight populations of parthenogenetic Timema stick insects and found evidence for sex in two of them!

Cryptic sex is likely mediated by rare males and may help to explain the unusual success of parthenogenesis in Timema. This also raises the question of whether episodes of rare sex are in fact the simplest explanation for the persistence of many old parthenogens in nature.

This work was led by Susana Freitas with help from myself, Marjorie Labédan, Zoé Dumas, and Tanja Schwander.

In the second paper, we find not only that Diploscapter nematodes differentially infect foraging ants (Ooceraea biroi) but also that they change the behaviour of their hosts so they spend less time outside the nest. This has the effect of reducing the division of labour and increasing the spatial overlap between hosts, which is expected to facilitate parasite transmission.

This means that division of labour not only shapes infection risk and distribution but can also be modified by parasites.

This work was led by Zimai Li in Yuko Ulrich’s lab.

New module!

Excited to announce our new third-year module ‘Animal reproductive strategies’ has just been accepted for inclusion into the new (2025) curriculum for Zoology!

Jointly organised with Kirsty MacLeod, in this module we will examine the causes and consequences of the incredible diversity of reproductive strategies found in animals.

Photo credit: Chun-Che Chang

Merry Christmas!

….And just like that my first semester as a lecturer draws to a close. It has been a crazy few months but overall was a lot of fun!

A few things I have learned:

Writing lectures takes a long time.
Practical session prep takes even longer.
Teaching would collapse if it wasn’t for the technicians.

Enjoy your break everyone!

Christmassy Main Arts
Snowy hills
The lecture theatre
Some pinned specimens
Some live specimens