Monday, June 28, 2010

"Dude Looks Like a Lady"

The third day of the 'Evolution' conference is officially completed and it was a good one! Among the highlights for me today was a great talk by Graham Slater (a postdoc with Mike Alfaro) about approximate Bayesian computational methods for estimating diversification and phenotypic evolutionary rates from unresolved phylogenetic trees. I think this general approach will probably have considerable utility in this and other problems for years to come.

I also saw a fantastic talk by Jeanne Robertson about courtship and aggressive behavior in dark and white sand dwelling lizards. White sand dwelling lizards have evidently evolved light colored dorsal coloration, obviously for crypsis. However, perhaps even more interestingly, in staged encounters white sand males nearly as often tried to court dark sand males as they tried to fight them. The confusion was one way, however, and Jeanne provided some excellent video of a dark sand male attacking a confused, and simultaneously courting, white sands individual. This unusual tendency is apparently due to a pleiotropic effect that dark dorsal coloration appears to have on ventral patch size - an effect that makes their ventral patches of dark sand males not much larger than the analogous patch on white sand females. So, as Jeanne so elegantly put it in the title of her talk: in white sand lizards, "Dude looks like a lady!" (For the record, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is pictured above because that "Dude" really does "look like a lady!")

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