82nd Domus Seminar: Dr Sonya Clegg

NB: This event is primarily for current members of College and Honorary Fellows. If you are an alumna/us and would like to attend, however, you are very welcome — please email jay.gilbert@st-annes.ox.ac.uk to let us know you will be coming.

You are cordially invited to the 82nd
Domus Seminar

on Thursday 13 October 2022 
at 5.30pm in the Mary Ogilvie Lecture Theatre


Paper to be given by Professor Sonya Clegg, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Ecology and Tutorial Fellow, St Anne’s College.
How to make a Dodo: the evolutionary ecology of island birds

Island-dwelling species have inspired evolutionary biologists such as Darwin and Wallace, the architects of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Species on islands are often distinct and unusual. For instance, the Dodo of Mauritius was a large, flightless, purportedly tame pigeon that evolved from a smaller, flighted relative from Asia. While unique, the Dodo provides an extreme example of an evolutionary journey that continues to play out to different extents in island bird species across the globe; a suite of changes referred to as the ‘island syndrome’. Common changes include initially small species evolving larger body size (and vice versa), reduced dispersal capacity, increased tameness, a wider ecological niche, and a slowed pace of life. To understand this widespread phenomenon, we need to quantify how selection pressures on islands differ from mainland areas, how natural selection and chance events can combine to shape a particular evolutionary trajectory, and how these processes manifest at the genomic level. Island-colonising silvereye birds in the south Pacific provide a replicated system to examine the drivers of the island syndrome and I will present results and insights that combine evolutionary, ecological and genomic approaches. I will conclude by reflecting on the plight of island species in the Anthropocene, and how some may evade an evolutionary trap and thus avoid the fate of the Dodo.

Drinks 6.30pm (Foyer)