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Department of Zoology



Climate change, habitat degradation and excessive use of antibiotics and pesticides pose severe threats to natural populations, and thus an ability to predict how populations respond to environmental perturbations is becoming ever more important. Understanding how a population’s evolutionary history affects its future resilience could therefore play a vital role in mitigation strategies. Existing theory makes two contrasting predictions: (1) populations that have previously been exposed to stronger selection filters consist of hardier individuals and will be therefore more resilient to future extreme events; and (2) populations that have been exposed to more relaxed selection in their evolutionary past will have greater standing genetic variation and thus greater resilience to extreme events. Whether these predictions also apply to populations that have been exposed to differential selection through social interactions is largely unknown.

Using the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, as a study system, I am investigating 1) whether the evolutionary history of parental care in a population affects its resilience, and capacity for adaptation, in novel environments. I’m also investigating 2) the type of new adaptations that can evolve rapidly upon exposure to harsher new environments, and 3) how quickly old adaptations are lost.


Key publications: 
  • Bladon EK, Pascoal S, Kilner RM (submitted to Evolution) The role of recent evolutionary history in resilience to environmental change: social evolution versus founder effects.
  • Bladon EK, Pascoal S, Bird N, Mashoodh R and Kilner RM (in review at Evolution Letters) The evolutionary demise of a social interaction: social partners differ in the rate at which interacting phenotypes are lost.
  • Bladon EK, English S, Pascoal S and Kilner RM (2020) Early‐life effects on body size in each sex interact to determine reproductive success in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. Journal of Evolutionary Biology.
  • Bladon AJ, Lewis M, Bladon EK, Buckton SJ, Corbett S, Ewing SR, Hayes MP, Hitchcock GE, Knock R, Lucas C, McVeigh A, Menéndez R, Walker JM, Fayle TM, Turner EC. (2020) How butterflies keep their cool: Physical and ecological traits influence thermoregulatory ability and population trends. Journal of Animal Ecology; 00: 1-11. https:/
  • zu Ermgassen EKHJ, Kelly M, Bladon EK, Salemdeeb R, Balmford A (2018) Support amongst UK pig farmers and agricultural stakeholders for the use of food losses in animal feed. PLOS ONE 13(4): e0196288.
PhD Student
Eleanor Bladon

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