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The extinction of the sexier? A global investigation of the role of sexual selection in modern amphibian declines


Project Description

Project details:

Biodiversity is undergoing alarming declines worldwide. Modern species extinctions are predominantly attributed to environmental factors, mostly climate change and habitat destruction. However, sexual selection –competition over mates–drives evolution of intrinsically ‘costly’ traits (calls, ornaments, displays) that increase chances of population collapses, thus potentially leading to non-ecological extinctions. But, is sexual selection a factor responsible for ongoing species extinctions? Despite its enormous implications for our understanding of current and future global biodiversity, this question remains unresolved. Existing theories linking sexual selection to extinctions make contradictory predictions –some models suggest that sexual selection accelerates extinctions, while others suggest that it mitigates species declines. Unfortunately, empirical evidence remains limited.

This project implements the first global-scale research programme investigating whether the worldwide extinctions of one of nature’s most threatened lineages, amphibians, are accelerated by the widespread evolution of a particularly costly sexual trait –advertisement calls, known to enhance mortality via energetic and ecological costs. Using a dataset spanning morphological, ecological, life history, genomic, climatic, geographic and phylogenetic data for 7,000+ amphibian species, this project aims to establish the mechanistic connections between sexual selection and extinctions at an unprecedented scale. This project is part of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity Project (GABiP) led by Dr Daniel Pincheira-Donoso.

This project will be supervised by Dr Daniel Pincheira-Donoso and Dr Hansjoerg Kunc of Queen’s University School of Biological Sciences.

Applications MUST be submitted through https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php.

Specific skills/experience required by applicants:

Essential skills/experience: (1) previous research experience in evolutionary biology and/or ecology; (2) confident with management, creation and quantitative analysis of data; (3) excellent communication and writing skills; (4) ability to work independently when needed; (5) a solid record of excellent academic achievements. Desired skills/experience: (1) confident with statistical analyses in R; (2) familiar with phylogenetic comparative methods.

All applicants must meet the academic entry requirements: https://www.qub.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate-research/biological-sciences-phd.html#entry

Funding Notes

Only UK and EU students are eligible to apply. Before applying, it is strongly recommended that you read the full information on eligibility criteria available from DfE: View Website.

Please note in particular that not all successful applicants may be eligible to receive a full studentship (i.e. fees and stipend) - please read in detail the Residency and Citizenship requirements in the document linked to above.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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