Research

For full details of research and publications, go to: Hughes Lab.

The Hughes Lab studies evolutionary biology and behavioural ecology. We are particularly interested in the evolutionary biology of sociality, symbiosis and sex. Understanding the evolution of sociality, symbiosis and sex may at first sight seem quite different problems, but in all of these extremely intimate relationships, individuals are faced with the same basic challenge of needing to utilise other individuals for their own ultimately selfish ends. Sociality, symbiosis and sex are therefore all characterised by a delicate balancing act of cooperation and conflict between the interacting individuals. Some interactions, such as ant colonies or sexual reproduction, may outwardly seem models of cooperation but are in reality ridden by conflict. Others that appear paradigms of conflict, such as parasite infections, may include elements of cooperation.

We are also interested in understanding animal behaviour in general, from the proximate mechanisms that produce the behaviour through to the ultimate reasons for its evolution. We are particularly interested in the evolution and implications of individual variation in behaviour, including genotypic variation and animal ‘personalities’.

Our research methods include lab and field experiments, a variety of molecular and microbiological techniques, and comparative analyses. Our study organisms include social insects, mealybugs, white sharks, and a diversity of parasitic and mutualistic microbes.