Functional Morphology, Biomechanics, Phylogenetics, Macroevolution, Modeling, and Statistics
At the simplest level, I am interested in how animals function, and the interaction between morphological design (what variations can animals have), environmental needs (or selective pressures), and evolutionary history (phylogeny).
I am especially interested in sexual dimorphism, especially where males and females differ in ways that are important for function or ecology. Sexual dimorphism is a great phenomenon to study because it not only provides a window into the biology of a species, but also can help us to understand the functional significance of morphological variation.
Why does a feature evolve? Is it a result of natural selection? Testing hypotheses of natural selection and adaptation requires flexible and powerful analytical methods. I work on phylogenetic methods which aim to combine phylogenetic relationships (or species pedigree) with our ideas of biological process to explicitly model the tempo and mode of evolution.
Current projects in the lab include
- Biomechanics of locomotion in iguanas and the effects of reproduction
- The evolution of sexual dimorphism in Anolis lizards
- Color vision, target detection, and behavior in Hawaiian Megalagrion damselflies
- Phylogenetic methods for adaptive evolution using a direct modeling approach
Please see my lab website for details and lab equipment.
Butler M.A. (June 25, 2007) Vive le difference! Sexual dimorphism and adaptive patterns in Anolis lizards. Integrative and Comparative Biology doi: 10.1093/icb/icm061
Scales J. and Butler M. (June 18, 2007) Are powerful females powerful enough? Acceleration in gravid green iguanas (Iguana iguana). Integrative and Comparative Biology doi: 10.1093/icb/icm054
Butler M.A., Sawyer S.A., and Losos J. B. (2007) Sexual dimorphism and adaptive radiation in Anolis lizards. Nature 447:202-205.