Evolution Research Group


The Evolution Group comprises the following faculty:

 Adam Eyre-Walker

The Eyre-Walker group is interested in the rates, patterns, processes and effects of genetic mutations. A particular focus has been on developing methods to estimate the distribution of fitness effects and the rate of adaptive evolution, and applying those to a broad range of species. Recent work has suggested that the rate of adaptive evolution is correlated to the effective population size. The group also has a keen interest in the processes that lead to the origin of both germ-line and somatic mutations; they have, for example, shown that the rate of mutation varies from site to site but in a manner that does not depend upon context. The evolution of synonymous codon use and base composition also remain topics of great interest within the group.

 Jeremy Field

The Field group focusses on the behavioural and evolutionary ecology of social systems, using wasps and bees as models. They are particularly interested in the fundamental question of how and why helping evolves and is maintained. Their work involves a combination of large-scale manipulative field experiments in natural and laboratory environments; mathematical modelling; and molecular work such as microsatellite-based studies to estimate genetic relatedness and assign offspring to parents. Study organisms include eusocial hover wasps (Liostenogaster, Malaysia); eusocial paper-wasps (Polistes, Spain), socially polymorphic sweat bees (Halictus, UK) and non-social digger wasps (Ammophila, UK).

 Bill Hughes

The Hughes Lab studies the evolutionary biology of sociality, symbiosis and sex. One or more of these intimate relationships is fundamental to practically all of life and individuals in all of them 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. In the Hughes Lab, we use social insects as our primary model organisms to understand the evolution of cooperation and conflict in sociality, symbiosis and sex.

 Ted Morrow

The Morrow group is interested in understanding more about the molecular basis of sexual conflict, with the aim of learning more about how sexual dimorphism evolves (or doesn't) and whether sexually antagonistic can contribute to the maintenance of genetic variation.

 Francis Ratnieks

Francis Ratnieks is the director of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI).  LASI carries out both basic and applied research. In basic research the aim is to understand how the animals themselves live. LASI basic research focuses on how workers coordinate their activities and use information so that foraging and colony life are well organized, how conflicts among colony members over who works and who lays eggs are resolved by worker and queen policing, and how guards recognize and react to intruders such as robber bees or wasps.

LASI’s applied research is aimed at helping bees and beekeepers and is called The Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health & Well Being. The Sussex Plan is breeding disease resistant hygienic bees that naturally remove infected individuals from their colony, decoding bee dances to find out where honey bees collect pollen and nectar and how this changes seasonally, determining which garden plants are good for bees, and helping design better urban apiaries.