Craig Walling (PI)
University of Edinburgh Chancellor's Fellow
I am a Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh. Broadly, my research investigates the evolution of life history traits such as lifespan, reproduction and ageing. Strong selection is predicted to reduce levels of genetic variation in such traits, yet considerable variation is often observed at the level of both the genotype and the environment. My research aims to try and understand the causes and consequences of this variation using techniques from both quantitative genetics and evolutionary ecology.
Work in my group currently focuses on two projects:
1. The evolution of the response to dietary restriction
Dietary restriction (DR), a reduction in the intake of calories or particular macronutrients, is the most consistent environmental variable to extend lifespan and delay ageing. Although there is considerable interest in the mechanisms that underpin this response, much less is known about its evolutionary origins. Work in my lab investigates the current evolutionary theories of lifespan extension under DR. In particular, we use techniques such as nutritional geometry to investigate the nutritional parameters that are responsible for the DR response. We also investigate environmental and genetic causes of variation in the response to DR and the correlations between the response of lifespan and reproduction. This work currently focuses on Drosophila melanogaster as a model species, but previous work has used the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus.
2. The causes and consequences of life history variation in natural populations
My research also uses data from the long-term study of Red deer on the Isle of Rum. This remarkable project has been running for over 40 years and has long term data on life history traits, and a pedigree of the population. This allows us to estimate the amount of genetic and environmental variation for key life history traits and thus try to predict their response to selection. My previous research on this project investigated the potential for genetic constraints to evolution as a result of within- and between-sex genetic correlations in key life history traits. Current work is investigating the role of inbreeding and inbreeding depression in the evolution of the mating system in this system, and the role of maternal effects and their genetic basis in determining the response to selection of key early life traits such as birth weight and birth date.