Clegg Lab

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Clegg Lab

About the Group

A common thread to my research is to increase understanding of the evolutionary processes that promote divergence in wild vertebrate systems. I use a variety of methodologies to answer questions about processes of genetic, morphological and ecological and behavioural differentiation.

Three current research areas are: 

1) Processes that generate biodiversity in archipelago systems

I am interested in the processes that both promote and inhibit the generation of biodiversity and I examine these processes using avian systems in South Pacific region, primarily New Caledonia and Vanuatu. I combine information on population genetic, phylogenetic variation, morphological and ecological variation and host-pathogen interactions (avian malaria), to understand the microevolutionary processes that underlie population divergence and how this may lead to incipient speciation.

2) Dynamics of natural selection in wild populations

I study the temporal dynamics of natural selection in an individually colour-ringed population of silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis chlorocephalus) on Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia to understand the nature of phenotypic evolution. This population has been studied since the 1960’s, and application of modelling techniques applied to the long-term dataset along with on-going collection of individual-based data allows insight into potential responses to changing environmental conditions. 

3) Genomics of divergence in island colonizing birds

Island colonizing birds often appear to undergo rapid divergence. Members of the Zosteropidae family provide an ideal system to examine genomic patterns of divergence associated with island colonisation across a spectrum of known population ages. I am applying genomic approaches to understand this rapid divergence, with a current focus on understanding genetic underpinnings of changes in dispersal tendencies.

For further information:


Dr Sonya Clegg

Ashley Cook, Population genomics of diversification in southwest Pacific Zosterops
Erik Sandvig, Demography and evolution of Heron Island silvereyes
Benjamin van Doren, Change and flexibility in the avian migratory programme: from individuals to systems

Recent Publications

Sandvig E, TN Coulson, J Kikkawa, SM Clegg (2017) The influence of climatic variation and density on the survival of an insular passerine Zosterops lateralis. PLoS One 12(4): e0176360.

Clark NJ, SM Clegg (2017) Integrating phylogenetic and ecological distances reveals new insights into parasite host specificity. Molecular Ecology 26: 3074-3086.

Siepielski A, MB Morrissey, M Buoro, SM Carlson, CM Caruso, SM Clegg, T Coulson, J DiBattista, KM Gotanda, CD Francis, J Hereford, JG Kingsolver, KE Augustine, LEB Kruuk, RA Martin, BC Sheldon, N Sletvold, EI Svensson, MJ Wade, ADC MacColl (2017) Precipitation drives global variation in natural selection. Science. 355: 959-962

Clark NJ, K Wells, D Dimitrov, SM Clegg (2016) Co-infections and environmental conditions drive the distributions of blood parasites in wild birds. Journal of Animal Ecology. 85:1461-1470.

Clark NJ, S Olsson-Pons, F Ishtiaq, SM Clegg (2015) Specialist enemies, generalist weapons and the potential spread of exotic pathogens: malaria parasites in a highly invasive bird. International Journal for Parasitology, 45: 891-899.

Olsson-Pons, S, NJ Clark, F Ishtiaq, SM Clegg (2015) Differences in host species relationships and biogeographical influences produce contrasting patterns of prevalence, community composition and genetic structure in two genera of avian malaria parasite in southern Melanesia. Journal of Animal Ecology, 84: 985-998.

Potvin, DA, SM Clegg (2015) The relative roles of cultural drift and acoustic adaptation in shaping syllable repertoires of island bird populations change with time since colonization. Evolution 69: 368-380.

List of site pages