New research underway in the CGB aims to explore the impacts of declining body size. Body sizes of animals are declining globally and are predicted to decrease further. This study will help us understand how evolutionary changes in body size affect the biology of individuals, populations and communities through addressing three main questions: what traits co-evolve with body size, how do evolutionary changes in body size affect the dynamics of population and how do evolutionary changes in body size affect community dynamics and function?
To do this researchers are initially focusing their efforts on small spirorbid tube worms and will establish laboratory populations of the selected species. They will then experimentally evolve large, small and neutral sized populations in essentially the same way that Martino and Lucy experimentally evolved large, small and neutral sized algal cell cultures. Replicate populations consisting of genetically based differences in body size can then be deployed into the field.
Belinda Comerford, the research assistant on this project has begun spawning spirorbids in the lab and has constructed the aquarium set-up to house the base populations for these experiments that will be underway soon.
Once the experimental evolution has begun, Belinda will be able to evaluate a range of life history traits and fitness measures after every six generations of artificial selection.