Abstract: Fecundity selection has been hypothesized to drive the evolution of female gigantism in the orb-weaving family Nephilidae. Several species of these spiders also exhibit large amounts of variation in size at maturity in one or both sexes. In this article, we attempt to detect correlations of mean and variation in adult size at a phylogenetic scale between the sexes and with latitude. We tested six predictions derived from three broad developmental, ecological, and age structure hypotheses, using independent contrasts and a recent species-level nephilid phylogeny as well as least squares and other conventional statistics: 1. In both sexes, species with larger mean size will have greater variation in size; 2. Males and females will show correlated changes in mean size and of variation in size; 3. In both sexes, mean size will be negatively correlated with the midpoint of the latitudinal range; 4. In both sexes, tropical species will be more variable; 5. In both sexes, more widespread species will be more variable; 6. Variation in male size will be positively correlated with mean female size. In no cases were male and female development correlated, suggesting that in this lineage male and female body size evolve independently. The only significant trend detected was a positive phylogenetic correlation between variation in female size and latitude, the opposite of prediction 4. Power tests showed that in all tests of the ecological hypothesis, sample sizes were more than adequate to detect significant trends, if present. Our results suggest that evolutionary trends in juvenile development among species are too weak to be detectable in such data sets.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).