Life-history biology

An organism's life-history is the sequence of events related to growth, reproduction and survival that occur between conception and death. As life-history biologists, we are working to understand how variation in resource acquisition and resource allocation shapes variation in life-history traits in populations of free-living animals, and what it’s consequences are in terms of fitness and evolutionary trajectories. We use our study population of common terns, initiated by Prof. Dr. Peter Becker, as well as a captive population of Japanese quail artificially selected for high and low investment in reproduction, to ask and answer questions, such as:

* Do natal conditions affect the adult phenotype?

* How does the phenotype change with age or environmental variation?

* Which physiological processes underlie such internally or externally induced plasticity?

* What is the (epi)genetic underpinning of key life-history traits and their plasticity?

* How and when does selection occur, and on which traits or trait combinations does it act?

* Is there a response to selection and thus a change in the genotypic distribution in the population?

Hereto, for the terns, we analyse the long-term longitudinal dataset and safeguard the continuation of this dataset. Experiments are performed in the quail. We combine field and laboratory work with statistical modelling and hope to also expand our theoretical work.

We currently collaborate with Simon VerhulstIdo PenMichael WinkMirre SimonsBarbara Tschirren and Olivier Chastel, and are usually happy to contribute data and thoughts to international collaborations.

For more details on specific projects, please visit the page of Dr. Sandra Bouwhuis.