Stalk-Eyed Fly Research Group, UCL






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Dr Sam Cotton

Research Department of Genetics, Environment & Evolution,
University College London,
Wolfson House,
4 Stephenson Way,
NW1 2HE,
United Kingdom.

e-mail: s.cotton

Research Interests:

I am currently a NERC Fellow in the Research Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment at UCL.

I am interested in the evolution of signaling systems, particularly those associated with sexual selection.

Previously, I have used experiments on stalk-eyed flies to investigate how genetic and environmental factors interact to produce sexual ornaments (exaggerated male eyespan) that reflect the quality of their bearer. I have also explored the causes of variation in individual mate preferences as such variation can have marked consequences for the strength of sexual selection. In addition, I have investigated the potential for, and evolutionary importance of, sexual conflict in stalk-eyed flies, patterns of paternity, and tested hypotheses relating to the evolution of multiple mating.

During a stint at the Department of Ecology & Evolution in Lausanne, Switzerland, I worked on (i) modeling the population dynamics that result from environmentally-induced sex change in systems with predominately genetic methods of sex determination, and (ii) some of the evolutionary causes and consequences of male-biased mutation rates.

Most of my previous research has been conducted under controlled laboratory conditions. However, it is important to show that patterns emanating from the laboratory are representative of those found in the wild, and do not simply result from exposure to the novel and often invariant environments that exist in captivity. To truly understand variation in, and selection on, naturally and sexually selected traits, we need to perform studies in environments that have a close relationship to those in which animals evolved.
I am therefore using my Fellowship to shift my attention from the lab to the field, and I am addressing questions pertaining to the evolution of sexual signaling systems under more natural conditions in the rainforests of Peninsular Malaysia.

My current and future programme of research is to investigate the effect of environmental stress on sexual selection in the stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni. I am combining observations and experimental manipulations, coupled with molecular analysis of paternity, to explore variation on lekking and mating behaviour, mate choice, promiscuity and the partitioning of reproductive success among phenotypes, under both laboratory and wild environments.

One of my main aims is to make stalk-eyed flies a major field model for testing sexual selection hypotheses.

Previous Work and Selected References:

Harley, E., Fowler, K., & Cotton, S. (2010). No detectable fertility benefit from a single additional mating in wild stalk-eyed flies. PLoS One 5 (12).

Cotton, S., & Wedekind, C. (2010). Male mutation bias and possible long-term effects of human activities. Conservation Biology. In press

Cotton, S., Small, J., Hashim, R., & Pomiankowski, A. (2010). Eyespan reflects reproductive quality in wild stalk-eyed flies. Evolutionary Ecology. 24, 83-95. PDF

Small, J., Cotton, S., Fowler, K. & Pomiankowski. A. (2009) Male eyespan and ownership affect contest outcome in the stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni. Anim. Behav. 78, 1213-1220. PDF

Cotton, S. (2009) Condition-dependent mutation rates and sexual selection. J. Evol. Biol. 22, 899-906. PDF

Cotton, S. & Wedekind, C. (2008) Population consequences of environmental sex reversal. Conservation Biology. 23, 196-206. PDF

Urbach, D. & Cotton, S. (2008) On the consequences of sexual selection for fisheries-induced evolution. Evolutionary Applications. 1, 645-649. PDF

Cotton, S. (2007) Individual recognition: Mice, MUPs and the MHC. Current Biology. 17, R971-R973. PDF
Földvári, M. Pomiankowski, A. Cotton, S. & Carr, M. (2007) A comprehensive morphological and molecular description of a new Teleopsis species (Diptera; Diopsidae) from Thailand. Zootaxa. 1620, 37-51. PDF

Cotton, S. & Wedekind, C. (2007) Introduction of Trojan sex chromosomes to boost population growth. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 249, 153-161. PDF

Cotton, S. & Wedekind, C. (2007) Control of introduced species using Trojan sex chromosomes. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 22, 441-443. PDF

Cotton, S. & Pomiankowski, A. (2007) Sexual selection: does condition dependence fail to resolve the 'lek paradox'? Current Biology. 17, R335-337. PDF

Cotton, S. & Pomiankowski, A. (2007). Sexually selected mutation rates. Heredity. 98, 185-186. PDF

Cotton, S., Small, J. & Pomiankowski, A. (2006). Sexual selection and condition-dependent mate preferences. Current Biology. 16, R755-65. PDF

Cotton, S., Rogers, D.W., Small, J., Pomiankowski, A. & Fowler, K. (2006) Variation in preference for a male ornament is positively associated with female eyespan in the stalk-eyed fly Diasemopsis meigenii. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B. 273, 1287-92. PDF

Corley, L.S., Cotton, S., McConnell, E., Chapman, T., Fowler, K. & Pomiankowski, A. (2006). Highly variable sperm precedence in the stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni. BMC Evol. Biol. 6, 53. PDF

Carr, M., Cotton, S., Rogers, D.W., Pomiankowski, A., Smith, H.K. & Fowler, K. (2006) Assigning sex to pre-adult stalk-eyed flies using genital discmorphology and X chromosome zygosity. BMC Dev. Biol. 6, 29. PDF

Carr, M., Cotton, S. Kotrba, M. & Földvári, M. (2006) A description of a new species of Diasemopsis (Diptera, Diopsidae) from the Comoro Islands with morphological, molecular and allometric data. Zootaxa 1211, 1-19. PDF

Cotton, S. Rogers, D.W. & Pomiankowski, A. (2005) Sexual selection: the importance of long-term fitness measures. Current Biology 15, 334-336. PDF

Cotton, S. & Pomiankowski, A. (2005) Do insect sexual ornaments demonstrate heightened condition dependence? Pages 31-49 in Insect Evolutionary Ecology (eds. M. Fellowes, G. Holloway & J. Rolff). CABI Publishing, London.

Cotton, S., Fowler, K. & Pomiankowski, A. (2004) Heightened condition dependence is not a general feature of male eyespan in stalk-eyed flies (Diptera: Diopsidae). Journal of Evolutionary Biology 17, 1310-1316. PDF

Cotton, S., Fowler, K. & Pomiankowski, A. (2004) Condition dependence of sexual ornament size and variation in the stalk-eyed fly Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni (Diptera: Diopsidae). Evolution 58, 1038-1046. PDF

Cotton, S., Fowler, K. & Pomiankowski, A. (2004) Do sexual ornaments demonstrate heightened condition-dependent expression as predicted by the handicap hypothesis? Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 271, 771-783. PDF

Monger, W.A., Seal, S. Cotton, S. & Foster, G.D. (2001) Identification of different isolates of Cassava brown streak virus and development of a diagnostic test. Plant Pathology 50, 768-775.

Academic Career:

2008 - 2011: NERC Post-doctoral Fellow, Research Department of Genetics, Environment & Evolution, UCL.
Environmental effects and sexual selection.

2007 - 2008: Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Sex ratios, evolution and conservation biology.

2006 (July/August): Dept. of Biology, UCL Funded Fieldwork. Gombak Valley Field Research Centre, Peninsular Malaysia.
Lek formation and sexual selection in the Malaysian stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni.

2005 - 2006: BBSRC Post-doctoral Research Assistant, Dept. of Biology, UCL.
Investigation of the mechanisms underlying sexual conflict in a stalk-eyed fly, Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni.

2005 (March/April): ASAB/Royal Society funded fieldwork, Gombak Valley Field Research Centre, Peninsular Malaysia.
Condition-dependent male signalling and female mate choice in the Malaysian stalk-eyed fly, Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni.

2004 - 2005: BBSRC Research Technician, Dept. of Biology, UCL.
Comparative evolution and development of a novel exaggerated sexual trait.

2000 - 2004: Ph.D. (Genetics), University College London.
The signalling function of eyespan in stalk-eyed flies (Diptera: Diopsidae).

1997 - 2000: BSc (Hons) Biology (First Class), University of Bristol.



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