Dr. Soper (left) with her research student Colette Ohotnicky
In my lab my students and I investigate how host/parasite coevolution influences the
evolution of reproduction. Specifically, we focus on the genetic advantages of polyandrous
behavior by sexual females. When females mate multiply (polyandry), they increase
the genetic diversity of their resulting broods and invoke post-copulatory sexual
selection. Increased genetic diversity within broods can lead to an advantage for
hosts under parasitic selective pressure. In addition, increased post-copulatory
sexual selection can lead to an increased selective pressure on males to evolve particular
reproductive traits. In my lab, I primarily use Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a freshwater snail from New Zealand, to test the questions of whether polyandry
leads to a reduction in disease prevalence and alterations to male reproductive traits.
The snail we use is small (3-5mm) and is known to undergo host/parasite coevolution
in some endemic populations. It is also known to have high levels of multiple paternity
and mate choice.
Image of Potamopyrgus antipodarum
Current Projects include:
- Male genital structure and morphology
- Mate choice under parasitic exposure
- Habitat utilization under parasitic exposure and infection
Potamopyrgus antipodarum is an interesting snail to study because it has several characteristics that are uncommon
in other snail species. For example, this snail is dioecious, meaning that sexual
females produce on average 50% male, 50% female. Males can be identified through
external genitalia, which they use to internally fertilize females. Females do not
lay eggs, but rather undergo "pregnancy" (internal gestation), give live birth, and
baby snails can sometimes be born in their gestational sac (see video link below).
I also collaborate with Dr. William Cody (UD) and Dr. Nicole Phillips (UNT) using
Drosophila melanogaster and Pseudomonas aeruginosa to investigate life history and reproductive traits under host/pathogen coevolution.