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How does sexual selection contribute to biodiversity on earth? ASTRID T. GROOT investigates this question using the example of moths. As she explains in this video, in many species, including moths, the most common individuals are chosen as mates and the ones that deviate away from the mean are selected against. Following this principle, you would expect less and less variation but this is not the case. Thus, her research team examines how genetic variance is maintained. They analyzed the mechanism underlying signal variation and response variation and questioned the general assumption that the average is always chosen over the extremes. After detailed behavioral analysis in the laboratory and the field they found that the signaling itself changes and that, indeed, the most common individuals are not always chosen. These findings add to a better understanding of how sexual selection and its evolution might drive diversity.


Astrid T. Groot is Group Leader for Population Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology. In addition, she is also Associate Professor of Chemical Communication at the University of Amsterdam and Research Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University. Her current research interests include the evolution of chemical communications, such as signal and response coevolution. She is on the editorial board of Biology Letters and Associate Editor of Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Original publication

Proximity of Signallers Can Maintain Sexual Signal Variation Under Stabilizing Selection

Michiel van Wijk, Jeremy Heath, Rik Lievers, Coby Schal and Astrid T. Groot
Scientific Reports
Published in 2017

Experimental Evidence for Chemical Mate Guarding in a Moth

Groot Astrid T., Hosseini Seyed Ali, Van Wijk Michiel, Ke Gao, Goldansaz Seyed Hossein and Schal Coby
Scientific Reports
Published in 2016

Genetic Mapping of Male Pheromone Response in the European Corn Borer Identifies Candidate Genes Regulating Neurogenesis

Heckel David G., Groot Astrid T., Koutroumpa Fotini A. and Dekker Teun
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Published in 2016

Reading recommendations

Genetic Basis of Allochronic Differentiation in the Fall Armyworm

Vogel Heiko, Hänniger Sabine, Dumas Pascaline, Schöfl Gerhard, Gebauer-Jung Steffi, Unbehend Melanie, Heckel David G. and Groot Astrid T.
BMC Evolutionary Biology
Published in 2017