WEES seminar: Loneliness and the evolution of self-compatibility

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Seminar: Sperm Wars (Orion C2035, 16.00h)


Dr. Melissah Rowe

Department of Animal Ecology, The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW))

Sperm cells exhibit remarkable levels of phenotypic variation across all levels of organisation: among species, among populations of the same species, among males within a population, as well as both among and within ejaculates from a single individual. This variation is surprising, given that the function of sperm – to find and fertilise an egg – is conserved across taxa. In addition to sperm, animal ejaculates contain a non-sperm component, i.e. seminal fluid, a complex cocktail of salts, sugars, lipids, hormones, and proteins. Seminal fluid proteins in particular are emerging as fundamental contributors to post-copulatory process that influence fertility and fertilisation success, and recent studies suggest these proteins are rapidly evolving. However, the evolutionary processes driving the diversification of both sperm and seminal fluid traits remain poorly understood. In this talk, I will present research exploring the evolution of avian ejaculates, with a particular focus on understanding how variation in the intensity of competition for fertilisation success shapes the evolution of sperm traits, as well as the functional significance of variation in sperm morphology. Additionally, I will present molecular and organismal-level data suggesting a role for microbes in the evolution of avian seminal fluid.

Workshop (Forum C0430, 13.30)

Reproductive ruin in a rapidly changing world?

Our world is changing at a rapid pace. Climate change is having a dramatic effect on the global thermal environment. Modern industrial and agricultural practices are introducing pesticides and pollutants into the natural world. And rapid urbanization has dramatically altered natural habitat structure and ecosystem functioning. How do these changes impact reproductive health and fertility of wild populations?

In this workshop we will discuss the impacts of these environmental changes on animal reproduction, with a particular focus on the thermal environment, and whether adaptation to warming is possible. We will also consider whether thermal impacts are more or less likely in different animal groups and how to study reproductive health in wild populations.

As preparation for the workshop please read the following:

  • Walsh, B. S., Parratt, S. R., Hoffmann, A. A., Atkinson, D., Snook, R. R., Bretman, A., & Price, T. A. R. (2019). The Impact of Climate Change on Fertility. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 1–11. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2018.12.002
  • Hurley, L. L., McDiarmid, C. S., Friesen, C. R., Griffith, S. C., & Rowe, M. (2018). Experimental heatwaves negatively impact sperm quality in the zebra finch. Proceedings. Biological Sciences / the Royal Society285(1871), 20172547–9. http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.2547 

The workshop for those interested is organized from 13:30 to 15:00 in room Forum C0430. Registration is required (space limited to 15), email Melanie Lindner (M.Lindner@nioo.knaw.nl). The workshop gives attendees the possibility to meet the speaker of the seminar and have a discussion based on recent publications. The workshops are a good possibility to get acquainted with hot topics in science and to learn how to discuss these topics with leading scientists in the field. Furthermore, BSc and MSc students can get 1 ECTS for attending 2 workshops.

WEES background

WEES is an initiative of PhD students and postdocs at Wageningen University to organize a continuing series of stimulating seminars on contemporary topics in evolution and ecology. We aim to bring together different groups at Wageningen University using a variety of systems, but with a common interest in evolutionary and ecological questions. For this series we invite researchers from all over the world who have leading roles in their field. After the talk there will be drinks for an informal discussion. WEES is funded by graduate schools PE&RC, WIMEK, EPS, VLAG, and WIAS.

For more information please visit: www.weeswageningen.nlLike us on Facebook, or join the Facebook Group for more participation.