Synthesis and test of the sensory drive hypothesis (Visiting Scholar)
Five simultaneous short-term visits are proposed. The collaboration is conceived to realize a project concept that emerged during the penultimate meeting of a NESCent Working Group, Evolutionary shifts in vertebrate visual ecology and visual system morphology. The goal of our short-term visit is to synthesize our group's standardized data sets on squamates, birds, and mammals in order to test the sensory drive (SD) hypothesis. SD is an integrated model of natural and sexual selection. It predicts sensory adaptations to environmental conditions, which, in turn, drive the evolution of communication and reproductive behaviors. A highly cited test of SD among cichlid fishes demonstrated the role of light variation in driving the evolution of female visual systems and mate coloration. SD is therefore an important concept in divergence and speciation, yet large-scale comparative tests are lacking. The data sets compiled by our working group have the potential to test SD on an unprecedented scale (across vertebrate orders), but we lack the support needed to merge and analyze our data sets. We believe that short-term visits by five members of our working group will catalyze a project that could reveal a widespread phenomenon in evolutionary biology.