Janette Boughman

Associate Professor

201 Giltner Hall
Office Telephone: 517-353-8636                                                   
Ph.D., University of Maryland, 1997
Research website

Other sites:

Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior


My research program addresses two venerable questions in evolutionary biology: How do new species arise? How does selection cause genetic change in nature? Both questions have a rich history in evolution going back to Darwin and the modern synthesis. Despite decades of research; however, we have only recently begun to reveal the mechanisms that generate new species in nature. Recent years have also seen phenomenal progress in understanding the genetic basis of adaptive traits. We are now able to ask questions - and get answers - that were simply impossible to address 20 years ago. Yet, progress in understanding how selection is acting in natural populations to cause evolutionary change at the genetic level has lagged behind. My work melds several rapidly advancing areas to investigate questions of fundamental importance to our understanding of how biodiversity is created, and how it is maintained.

My other interest -- in cooperation -- arises from our lack of knowledge about the evolutionary mechanisms that favor cooperation among unrelated individuals.  With low levels of relatedness, conflict of interest between social partners should be intense, yet many species do cooperate. Why?  And how are cheaters prevented from undermining such cooperation?  How does social communication mediate cooperation?  I studied these questions in greater spear-nosed bats. We are now pursuing work on cooperation and social behavior in stickleback fish. Some of this work is helping to advance evolutionary robotics.

I use a combination of field observations, field experiments, and laboratory experiments.  My interests and training cross levels of organization from sensory biology to behavioral ecology to evolutionary genetics.  I integrate these levels in my research to address questions of how communication systems evolve and how this can give rise to new species.

Graduate Students:

I welcome students interested in working on the evolution of behavior, especially those who want to focus on sexual selection and speciation, and/or communication. The main things I am looking for in prospective students is a high level of curiosity about evolution and behavior, good intellectual ability, the ability to work independently, some research experience, and a close enough match in interests so that I can effectively advise them.

Postdoctoral Associates Currently Supervised:

Dr. Robin Tinghitella ( hibbsr@msu.edu ) Ph.D. University of California-Riverside. Robin investigates the evolutionary dynamics of sexual signals, focusing on both changes and loss of signaling traits.  She studies these questions in Hawaiian crickets and threespine sticklebacks, and is investigating whether changes in female preference are required for the evolutionary loss of male signals.

Dr. Jason Keagy ( keagy@msu.edu ) Ph.D. University of Maryland. Jason is interested in the evolution of cognition, and the connection between cognition and sexual selection. His thesis explored these questions in bowerbirds, and he is now interested in sexual selection, cognition, and speciation in stickleback fish. His current work includes field behavior experiments and genetic mapping.

Dr. Liliana Lettieri ( lettieri@msu.edu ) Ph.D. Georgia Tech.
Liliana's research focuses on the evolutioin of communication and signals. She investigates how behavioral interactions are influenced by signaling traits, and how this generates trait diversity and acts as a selective force in sticklebacks. she is currently focused on sexual selection and speciation, and is looking at both the behavioral traits and their genetic underpinnings.

Graduate Students Currently Supervised:

Alycia Reynolds ( reyno340@msu.edu )
Alycia's work investigates ecological causes of hybridization between two endangered species. The putative cause of ecological change is an invasive crayfish. She is measuring the magnitude of premating isolation remaining, and investigating which ecological changes are responsible for increased hybridization.

Emily Weigel ( weigelem@msu.edu )
Emily is interested in sexual selection, and is working on one experimental project that investigates female reproductive investment, and a theoretical project that explores the loss of sexual signaling traits.

Representative Publications:

Cooper IA, Gilman RT & Boughman JW (2011) Sexual dimorphism and speciation on two  ecological coins: patterns from nature and theoretical predictions.  Evolution

Kozak GM, Head ML & Boughman JW (2011) Sexual imprinting on ecologically divergent traits leads to sexual isolation in sticklebacks.  Proceedings Royal Society London B. published online Jan 26, 2011.

Behm JE, Ives AR & Boughman JW (2010) Ecological disturbance and the collapse of a species pair through hybridization. American Naturalist 175: 11-26.

Rundle HD & Boughman JW (2010) Behavioral ecology and speciation. In Westneat DF & Fox CW. Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology. Oxford Univ Press. Pp 471-487.

Head ML, Price EK & Boughman JW (2009) Body size differences do not arise from divergent mate preferences in a species pair of threespine stickleback. Biology Letters 5: 517-520.

Kozak GM, Reisland M & Boughman JW (2009) Sex differences in mate recognition for species with mutual mate choice. Evolution 63: 353-365.

Odling-Smee LC, Boughman JW & Braithwaite VA (2008) Sympatric species of threespine stickleback differ in their performance in a spatial learning task. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 62: 1935-1945.

Kozak GM & Boughman JW (2008) Experience influences shoal member preference in a species pair of threespine sticklebacks. Behavioral Ecology 19: 667-676.

Boughman JW (2007) Condition dependent expression of red color differs between stickleback species. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20: 1577-1590.

Taylor EB, Boughman JW, Groenenboom M, Sniatynksi M, Schluter D & Gow J. (2006) Speciation in reverse: morphological and genetic evidence of the collapse of a stickleback species pair (Gasterosteus). Molecular Ecology 15: 343-355.

Boughman, J.W., Rundle, H.D. & Schluter, D. (2005) Parallel evolution of sexual isolation in sticklebacks. Evolution 59(2): 361-373.

Boughman, J.W. (2002) How sensory drive can promote speciation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 17: 571-577.

Boughman, J.W. (2001) Divergent sexual selection enhances reproductive isolation in sticklebacks. Nature 411: 944-948.

Rundle, H.D., Nagel, L.M., Boughman, J.W. & Schluter, D. (2000) Natural selection and parallel speciation in sympatric sticklebacks. Science. 287: 306-308.