One aim of evolutionary biology is to understand how the relationship between genotypic and phenotypic variation affects trait evolution. The pathway from genotype to fitness is complex; genotypic variation is expressed through development and physiology, which generates and structures phenotypic variation. This phenotypic variation in turn produces variation in performance, ultimately leading to variation in fitness. In my research program, I have studied each step along this pathway, often layering comparative, quantitative genetic, phenotypic engineering, or genetic approaches to address a particular set of questions. The ultimate aim, of course, is to understand how relationships between each step from genotypic variation to fitness shapes trait evolution.
I study the expression and evolution of functionally and developmentally integrated suites of morphological or behavioral traits. In field, laboratory, and mesocosm studies, I use naturally occurring and experimentally produced extreme trait variants to elucidate the relationships among variation in genotype, physiology, ecological performance, and reproductive success. My goal is to reveal how both internal proximate (e.g., genetic, developmental) mechanisms and external (natural, sexual) selection influence the evolution of complex trait suites. By desire and design, my research is integrative and often collaborative, and I develop new theory, experimental approaches or instrumentation to address particular research questions. As nearly all my work involves large-scale artificial selection or experimental evolution components, considerable time is required to bring complete datasets to fruition. While these long-term experiments incubate, I invest myself in formalizing a general research program for the study of complex traits via synthetic reviews of the literature and through collaborative theoretical work. In sum, these complementary efforts significantly advance the study of complex trait suites by providing an overarching research framework, and by contributing new tools, experimental approaches and data to test the predictions of the transformative theoretical advances I helped develop.
Shingleton, A.W. and W. A. Frankino. 2013. New perspectives on the evolution of exaggerated traits. BioEssays 35:100-107.
Frankino, W. A., A. Shingleton, D. Emlen. 2009. Experimental approaches to studying the evolution of morphological allometries: The shape of things to come. in: Experimental Evolution: Concepts, Methods, and Applications, T. Garland and M. Rose, eds. University of California Press.
P.M. Brakefield and W. A. Frankino. 2009. Polyphenisms in Lepidoptera: Multidisciplinary approaches to studies of evolution and development. in: Phenotypic Plasticity in Insects: Mechanisms and Consequences. Ananthakrishnan, TN and D. W. Whitman (Eds.). Oxford University Press.
Shingleton, A., W. A. Frankino, T. Flatt, F. Nijhout, and D. Emlen. 2007. Size and Shape: The regulation of static allometry in insects. BioEssays 29:536-548.
Frankino, W. A., R. A. Raff. 2004. Evolutionary importance and pattern of phenotypic plasticity: Insights gained from development. Pp 64-81 in: Phenotypic Plasticity, Functional and Conceptual Approaches. T. J. DeWitt and S. M. Scheiner, eds. Oxford University Press.
Wolf, J. B., C. E. Allen, and W. A. Frankino. 2004. Multivariate phenotypic evolution in developmental hyperspace. Pp 366-389 in: The Evolutionary Biology of Complex Phenotypes. M. Pigliucci and K. Preston, eds. Oxford University Press.