Eco-evolutionary dynamics of the extended pace-of-life syndrome in a range expanding damselfly
Investigating one trait at a time is insufficient to understand the responses of organisms towards changing environments. This is because life history, behavioural and physiological traits integrate and align along a fast-slow axis, called the pace-of-life syndrome. For example, bold individuals with a fast metabolic rate live fast and die young, whereas shy individuals with a slow metabolism live slow and die old. We don’t know (i) which exact traits and associated genes are part of this syndrome, (ii) whether and how it evolves rapidly in a predictable way, and (iii) what the consequences are for interactions with other species. To address these knowledge gaps, I will work with a damselfly that is currently expanding its range polewards. I will focus on less studied traits such as physiology and performance, and link these to gene expression patterns. I will test the idea that individuals with a faster life style will be the pioneers in the range expansion process by comparing the life styles of newly colonized damselfly populations located at the range edges with core populations. Finally, I will test whether differentiation in lifestyle between edge and core populations leads to changes in the outcome of predator-prey interactions, and eventually may influence the stability of the food web. Overall, my proposal aims to advance understanding of the exciting, yet understudied mechanisms underlying ecological and evolutionary processes.