Patrick Hennessey joins the lab! He hails from the UK, where he got his undergraduate degree at Queen Mary University in London. He comes to the lab with previous experience in tropical ecology of reptiles and amphibians (in Honduras) and morphological evolution (skull morphology of crocodilians). In our lab, he will be studying skull evolution and dietary specialization in snakes.
We just published a new paper on the ontogeny and evolution of decoy coloration in skinks! We found that three skink species lose decoy coloration at a similar size, and that adult-sized clay models with decoy coloration experience high predation rates. Our work suggests that predation plays a role in the evolution of ontogenetic loss of decoy coloration. This work also continues the theme of integrating natural history museums, undergraduate research (undergad author!), and field studies. This work was also a collaboration with Charles M. Watson at Midwestern State University. Check out the link below for more information.
Quinn Taylor just published his Honor's thesis on predation risk in small snakes! We studied predation risk in small snakes by combining museum surveys for attack scars and field studies of predation on clay models. Quinn also wrote an awesome blog piece on the work. Check out the links below to read the articles and the blog post:
The Cox lab just attended the 2019 Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Meeting in Tampa, Florida! There were a total of 10 posters and talks from the Cox lab and our various collaborators. Albert Chung and John David Curlis were finalists for the Huey Award from the Division of Ecology and Evolution, while Adam Rosso and Lauren Wilson presented inaugural posters at SICB for their research.
Our new paper on the phylogeographic relationships among populations of the flat-headed snake (Tantilla gracilis) was just published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society! We found that while some clades of flat-headed snakes have small geographic ranges and are genetically diverse, other clades are geographically widespread and genetically homogeneous. Our work suggests that some, but not all, clades have experienced relatively recent geographic and demographic expansion. Check out the link to read the paper:
A collaborative grant with Bob Cox from the University of Virginia and Henry John-Alder from Rutgers University was just funded by the National Science Foundation! We will be using these funds to study the evolution of sex-biased gene expression and growth regulation by testosterone in lizards. Check back for updates on graduate fellowships to work on this project.
The latest paper out of the lab has been published in a special issue on integrative taxonomy of reptiles in the Journal of Natural History! In this paper, we use molecular phylogenetics to examine the relationships within and among all currently recognized species of Sonora (ground snakes), Chionactis (shovel-nosed snakes) and Chilomeniscus (sand snakes). We found that the genus Sonora is not monophyletic with regards to Chionactis and Chilomeniscus, and that the species Sonora semiannulata was also not monophyletic. We rectified this non-monophyly by synonymizing Chionactis and Chilomeniscus with Sonora (Sonora has taxonomic priority), and by recognizing some of the previously recognized diversity within Sonora semiannulata. Read the paper at the link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00222933.2018.1449912