John Fitzpatrick

Wallenberg Academy Fellow 2016

Natural Sciences

Dr. John Fitzpatrick
Stockholm University

Nominated by
​Stockholm University

Are animals’ sexual traits governed by how they reproduce?

Why haven’t mammals developed the same beautiful colours as birds – even though mammals also need to attract a partner in order to reproduce? Wallenberg Academy Fellow John Fitzpatrick will investigate how animals’ traits and sexual behaviors have been affected by evolutionary transitions from one method of reproduction to another.

Within evolutionary theory there are two primary forces in the development of a species: survival and reproduction. The latter has been used to explain why animals court their partners or have beautiful feathers; if you don’t attract a partner you won’t be able to reproduce. But why have different species developed different behaviors and characteristics for reproduction?

John Fitzpatrick will investigate whether the way an animal reproduces influences how evolution acts on their sexual behaviors and traits by analyzing what happened at the transition from one method of reproduction to another. For example, how has a species been affected by starting to give birth to live young instead of laying eggs? Or when it has moved from external to internal fertilization?

He will analyze the family tree of animal life to see whether different evolutionary transitions can be linked to changes in sexual traits. He will also analyze in greater detail fish in the “live-bearing tooth-carps” family, where male sexual behaviours range from non-courting to elaborate courtship displays to attract females. His aim is the comprehensive understanding of sexual evolution in the family tree of animal life.


Photo: Marcus Marcetic