Department of Biology
Saint Louis University
St. Louis, Missouri
I am interested in understanding how animals interact with each other to maximise their own survival and reproduction. I am fascinated by systems in which there are potentially multiple strategies to increasing fitness, or where different selective pressures may be in opposition to each other. My research has primarily focused on how arachnids (spiders and their kin) use their behaviour to overcome these challenges in the context of intra- and intersexual selection. I completed my PhD in Phil Taylor’s lab at Macquarie University, studying contests in jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) and then worked on sexual selection and communication in wolf spiders (Araneae: Lycosidae) as a post-doc in Eileen Hebets' lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I recently joined Kasey Fowler-Finn's lab at Saint Louis University to study how the environment affects vibrational communication in terrestrial arthropods.
When animals come into conflict over limited resources, the allocation of the resource may depend upon each rival’s fighting ability as well as the relative value of the resource and relative costs of fighting for each opponent. Contests are usually resolved when one opponent makes the decision to withdraw and this decision may be influenced by their own abilities or by information obtained about the opponent. Much of my research examines the extrinsic and intrinsic factors that influence the decision to withdraw from animal contests.
Evolution of Complex Communication
My current research focuses upon the evolution of complex courtship displays in the wolf spider genus Schizocosa. We are adopting a comparative approach, examining the more than 20 species occurring in North America. Male Schizocosa face the challenge of communicating with females in various signaling environments that are full of conspecific rivals. Each species has evolved its own unique courtship repertoire that may include multiple visual and vibratory signals. Do these complex repertoires serve multiple functions or do they facilitate effective communication across different conditions? This research involves collaboration with researchers at UC Davis and UC Berkeley.
rowan (dot) mcginley (at) gmail (dot) com