RESEARCH

RESEARCH INTERESTS

How species form is a central question in evolutionary biology. A major challenge in contemporary speciation research is linking microevolutionary processes, such as natural and sexual selection, within populations to broader macroevolutionary patterns of divergence among species. Much of my research is focused on the evolution of color, pattern, behavior, chemical signals, and other traits under both natural and sexual selection that vary geographically within and among species to understand how species diverge into distinct lineages. I take an integrative approach that leverages phylogenetics, morphology, behavior, and both field and lab work to study species traits in space and through time. My Ph.D. dissertation is on the evolutionary causes and consequences of color polymorphism.

So what is color polymorphism and why do we care?

Color polymorphism is the presence of two or more discrete color morphs within a breeding population. Biologists have long been mesmerized by color polymorphism because it defies evolutionary expectations. Evolutionary processes like natural selection, sexual selection, and genetic drift reduce genetic and phenotypic variation within populations.

Further than the interesting evolutionary mystery color polymorphism poses to evolutionary biologists…Color polymorphism is thought to be capacious starting variation for speciation, a process in biology we still don’t fully understand.

CURRENT PROJECTS

COLOR MORPH DIFFERENCES IN FUNCTIONAL & SIGNALING TRAITS

Color polymorphism defies evolutionary expectations by maintaining striking phenotypic variation within a single species. Stable polymorphism within a population is hypothesized to be related to correlational selection of other phenotypic traits among morphs. Here, we report on a previously unknown throat color polymorphism in the Aegean Wall Lizard (Podarcis erhardii) and examine morph-correlated differences in traits important to social behavior and communication: maximum bite force capacity and chemical signal profile.

We'll share our exciting results once our manuscript has gone through peer review - check back soon!

This project is in collaboration with Simon Baeckens, Colin Donihue, José Martín, Panayiotis Pafilis, and Danielle Edwards. Thanks to the amazing UC Merced undergraduate field assistants who helped catch and care for lizards: Indiana Madden, Adam Rosso, and Cynthia Ramos!

THE EVOLUTION OF COLOR POLYMORPHISM IN THE LACERTIDAE

Color polymorphism, or the presence of two or more discrete color phenotypes within a breeding population, is phylogenetically widespread across the tree of life but taxonomically quite rare… Color polymorphic species defy evolutionary expectations by maintaining highly variable heritable phenotypes over space and time. The evolution of striking intra-species variability within populations has particularly interesting implications for sympatric speciation, as the same processes that act to maintain morph diversity within color polymorphic species are likely the very mechanisms involved in its loss and lineage divergence.

We are reconstructing evolutionary relationships in a speciose family of lizards, the Lacertidae, and using phylogenetic comparative methods to test whether habitat diversity and sexual size dimorphism is evolutionary correlated with color polymorphism and if color polymorphic lineages are engines of speciation.

GEOGRAPHIC VARIATION IN COLOR POLYMORPHISM IN PODARCIS

What are the ecological correlates of morph variation throughout the geographic distribution of Podarcis erhardii, an Aegean island endemic lizard species?

COLOR MORPH-CORRELATED BEHAVIOR IN PODARCIS ERHARDII

Color morphs within color polymorphic species can exhibit alternative mating behaviors that are similar to a rock-paper-scissors game, where one strategy beats one strategy beats and is beaten by another. We think these alternative strategies are involved in the evolutionary maintenance of color polymorphism. We captured over 100 adult male lizards to find out if different color morphs (orange, yellow, and white) exhibit different ritualized aggressive behaviors when put in an arena with one refuge resource.

PUBLICATIONS

2018

** Indicates mentored student
**Madden, I., Brock, K.M. 2018. An extreme record of cannibalism in Podarcis erhardii mykonensis (Reptilia: Lacertidae) from Siros island, Cyclades, Greece. Herpetology Notes, 11: 291-292. web | PDF 

2017

**Rosso, A., Brock, K.M., and Foufopoulos, J. 2017. First record of Eryx­ jaculus ­turcicus (Olivier, 1801) on Kinaros Island, dodecanese, Greece. Herpetozoa, 31(1/2): 86-88. web | PDF

2016

Belasen, A., Brock, K.M., Li, B., Chremou, D., Valakos, E., Pafilis, P., Sinervo, B., and Foufopoulos, J. 2016. Fine with heat, problems with water: microclimate alters water loss in a thermally adapted insular lizard. Oikos, 126(3): 447-457. web | PDF

2015

Mossman, A., Culhane, K., Miller, Z., Brock, K.M., Pafilis, P., and Donihue, C,M.. 2016. An extreme new record of Matrix matrix (Linnaeus, 1758) from a Mediterranean island. Herpetozoa, 29(1/2): 107-109. web | PDF
Donihue, C.M., Brock, K.M., Foufopoulos, J., and Herrel, A. 2015. Feed or fight: testing the impact of food availability and intraspecific aggression on the functional ecology of an island lizard. Functional Ecology, 30(4): 566-575. web | PDF

2014

Brock, K.M., Donihue, C.M., and Pafilis, P. 2014. New records of frugivory and ovophagy in Podarcis lizards from East Mediterranean Islands. North-western Journal of Zoology, 10: 223-225. web | PDF
Brock, K.M., Belasen, A., and Foufopoulos, J. 2014. Podarcis erhardii bifurcated tail post-autotomy. Herpetological Review, 45(2): 86. web | PDF
Brock, K.M., Bednekoff, P., Pafilis, P., and Foufopoulos, J. 2014. Evolution of anti predator defenses in an insular lizards species, Podarcis erhardii (Reptilia: Lacertidae): the sum of all fears? Evolution, 45(2): 69(1): 216-231. web | PDF

Kinsey M. Brock

University of California, Merced

© 2016 | Kinsey M. Brock

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