Der Graue und die Küste - Paul Klee, 1938 Der Graue und die Küste - Paul Klee, 1938 DR. PAUL J. WATSON
Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology

Evolutionary Psychology
Adjunct Associate Professor
Department of Biology, Castetter Hall, Room 110

The University of New Mexico
MSC03-2020, Biology
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131 USA

Tel. (505) 681-3391
pwatson@unm.edu

 

UPCOMING COURSE

Spring Semester 2018

The Evolution of Religiosity and Human Coalitional Psychology

Offered for Three Credits  to Students in

Biology 419/519, Religious Studies 447, or Peace Studies 340
The course is also is on the list of the UNM Business School's Innovation Academy approved courses.

Tuesday and Thursday,  11:00 - 12:15, Room 214 Mechanical Engineering.

Click for more information.


NEW: See my Blog Site for an increasing cache of informal writings.

 

Current Position & Education

Major Interests

Grants

Post-doctoral Experience

Graduate Highlights

Teaching OR Blog Remarks

Graduate Students

Publications

Ongoing Projects

Something Beautiful

Paul J. WatsonCurrent Positions
Adjunct Associate Professor, February 1991 - present, Department of Biology, University of New Mexico .
Faculty Adjunct, October 1995 - present,
University of Montana Biological Station.

Self-employed, privately and publicly funded research biologist, 1981 - present.

Education
Ph.D., Biology, 1988.
Cornell University, Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Ithaca, NY.
Major: Behavioral Biology, S.T. Emlen and P.W. Sherman.
Minor 1: Ecological Genetics, T. Eisner.
Minor 2: Bioorganic Chemistry, J. Meinwald.
Minor 3: Neurobiology, R. Harris-Warrick.

Doctoral Thesis: The Adaptive Functions of Sequential Polyandry in the

Spider Linyphia litigiosa (Linyphiidae). (Linyphia litigiosa = Neriene litigiosa).

B.A. Zoology & B.A. Botany / High Honors, 1981. University of Montana,
Missoula , MT.
Bachelor
's Thesis: Freezing Low Temperature Tolerance in the Cactus

.

Opuntia fragilis (Cactaceae).

Post-Doctoral Experience

Interests
My research focuses on the evolution of social and sexual behavior in taxa ranging from arthropods to humans. My interests center on the evolutionary adaptiveness of contingent responses of animal and human minds to challenges associated with sexual reproduction and social living. My nearly continuous studies of the sexual selection system of the sierra dome spider, Neriene (= Linyphia) litigiosa (Linyphiidae), are now in their 34th year.
I involve graduate and advanced undergraduate students in all my research. I also spend a good deal of time advising students on their own projects.

NOTICE: I am looking for a student or postdoctoral "heir" to the sierra dome spider system. It deserves continued scientific attention, far more than I can supply. I'll meet you in the field, teach you what I know, and show you how its done. You'll hit the ground running! I'll meet you in the field at Flathead Lake Biological Station. I'll help you write a grant proposal. Please, contact me if interested.Freshly molted sierra dome female (left) entering mating posture with color-marked male.

I thank the late Dr. Allen Stokes for getting me started on my decades of sierra dome spider research. I took his 8-week field course in animal behavior at Flathead Lake Biological Station in the summer of 1980. Dr. Stokes' intelligence, indefatigable curiosity, love of nature and observation, and his unwavering encouragement, got me started on a project that continues to profoundly influence my personal and professional life.

The complex life of the sierra dome spider, the Darwinian algorithms natural selection has programmed into its tiny nervous system to deal with so many challenges to its survival and reproduction, has given me a fantastic window, so wide open, straight into the heart of nature. Throw open that window for yourself. Deeply get to know the evolutionary behavioral ecology of some wild yet observable creature, in nature. While you work, scientifically, take time to ponder as well, and let the purifying breeze that flows through your mind gradually clarify your view of what it means to be a product of natural selection. Get sober. I dare you, go taste the "awesomeness" of the real.

There are so many other extraordinary individuals to thank for enabling me to become a naturalist and a Darwinian, but my doctoral and postdoctoral mentors (see above) are the most important. Teachers I encountered in the Gurdjieff Work also have been vital to my development. Without these people, I cannot even imagine what my my inner and outer life would consist of - probably little. Special thanks also to J.A. Baker, for his amazing book, "The Peregrine," and Shunryu Suzuki, for "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," which were especially important in irreveribly activating my thirst, early in life, for views from the real world.

The over arching interest in my animal research is intersexual conflict, and understanding the complimentary behavioral, morphological, and physiological products of antagonistic intersexual arms races over control of the opposite sex as a reproductive resource. I perform interdisciplinary studies of invertebrates designed to reveal the information content of sexual signals, and thus the adaptive significance of decision rules based on these sexual signals (1) in choosing mates and, (2) as a separate issue specific to female choice of sires, in determining which mates actually fertilize eggs, and so contribute genetically to offspring. Another major research focus is the adaptive significance of multi-male mating by females. A third emphasis has been to study the rules and information processing that informs decisions by males concerning how hard to fight over access to specific females. Methodologically, my research is rooted deeply in observation and experimentation in nature. However, it also includes laboratory components involving carbon dioxide and oxygen respirometry to measure individual variation in metabolic capacities and rates of aging, as well as morphometric analysis to quantify variation in developmental competence via measures of fluctuating asymmetry. These aspects of my research help me to understand how sexual signals convey information about fundamental aspects of individual viability that, genetically and epigenetically, impact the reproductive success of offspring.

Associative penultimate female (left) guarded by a marked male (see Watson 1990); photo by Paul J. Watson


More specifically, my ongoing sierra dome spider studies seek to elucidate: (1) the information content of male and female courtship signals and cues, (2) the conditionality of choice mechanisms and sexual preferences, (3) trade-offs amongst sexual preferences, (4) the importance of antagonistic coevolution with diseases in its effect on the evolutionary dynamics of mate choice, (5) the use of polyandry as a tactic to mitigate problems of intersexual competition, harassment, and mate selection, and (6) the multivariate decision rules males use to modulate their fighting behavior and intersexual courtship intensity. I continue this work primarily at the University of Montana's Flathead Lake Biological Station.


In my research on the metabolic capacities demonstrated by male sierra dome spiders during their elaborate strenuous copulatory courtship, I have found that both metabolic efficiency (microwatts consumed per unit of courtship performance) and maximum metabolic rate (sustainable aerobic capacity) are positively selected by females. Two overt male traits independently predict fertilization success, body mass and copulatory vigor (measured as intromission rate - the number of separate genitalic connections made by the male per unit time during copulatory courtship). Metabolic efficiency is correlated with male body mass (even after compensating for the expected allometric relationship) and aerobic capacity with copulatory vigor.


Interestingly, due to some fundamental physiological trade-off (maybe to do with accelerating rates of oxygen free-radicals with increasing metabolic rates) efficiency and maximum metabolic rate are negatively correlated in the general male population. By simultaneously selecting positively for both of these traits, females are effectively shopping for the least negative trade-off between these two viability-enhancing physiological traits. In other words, by cross-referencing body mass and courtship performance, females are sexually selecting for metabolic power: the maximum rate at which the male can perform useful metabolic work (as opposed, for example, to "work" wasting calories in the production of heat or unnecessary movement.

Built to fight: face chelicerae and fangs of a male sierra dome spider, rear view; photo by Paul J. Watson

Built to fight: face chelicerae and fangs of a male sierra dome spider, front view; photo by Paul J. Watson

My respirometric studies also suggest that males sierra domes that are more sexually competitive early in life, have more rapid rates of physiological senescence (as measured by their resting and active metabolic rates). Rates of aging of prospective sires may be a major issue for female sierra dome spiders. In my study population, variable proportions (up to 85 percent!) of gravid females die each year just before they are able to oviposit. They apparently succumb just a bit too early to a rickettsial disease, but their susceptibility may be related to their level of senescence.


While a given female's sons can hope to reproduce early in adult life, and so not have their reproductive fitness threatened by the sexual competitiveness/senescence rate trade-off, daughters may be reproductively crippled by genes received from of a rapidly aging father because females always need to live long to have a chance to yolk up a sizeable clutch of eggs. Early reproduction is not an option for females, so they cannot easily escape the competitiveness/senescence rate trade-off. Thus, to protect their daughters, female sierra dome spiders may need to resist always mating with only the most sexually impressive males in the population, especially early in the mating season before the ravages of aging have taken their toll on the super studs of the population.

 

Shorter term insect studies include environmentally determined mate choice criteria and the energetics of intersexual conflict in Mormon crickets and water striders, the energetics of feeding preferences in a seed-eating bug, sensory and behavioral adaptations for facultative hematophagy in a sap-sucking plant bug, and the ecological and life history correlates of ritualized versus injurious competitive sexual displays in microlepidopteran moths.

I also have a long-standing interest in human evolutionary psychology. Here is a an excellent introduction to evolutionary psychology specifically geared to understanding the evolution of violence in humans and other animals, including especially intraspecific violence.

Humans are built to be intensely curious about the workings of the minds of others. We instinctively hunger for insights into "what makes others tick," so to say, that allow us to predict and influence (manage) the operation of the minds and hence behaviors of fellow humans. Whether the relationship is loving or ruthlessly exploitative, our biological fitness depends on turing members of our social group, as much as possible, into components of our "extended phenotype" (sensu Dawkins, 1999). Less commonly, people also are non-superficially curious about their own minds, and the hyper-subjective self-models and world-models our minds create "for us." Behavioral ecology is essentially the analysis of animal and human mental design from the combined perspectives of ecology and evolutionary biology. The analyses conducted by evolutionarily-oriented students of behavior often include efforts to elucidate the functional design of a specific component of the subject species' mind (i.e., how it gathers and processes information relevant to a specific fitness-related opportunity or threat, and why it responds, contingentlly, with certain behavioral outputs), as well as the fitness consequences and phylogenetic history of mental design.

I am a member of the University of New Mexico's Human Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences faculty. Generally, I am interested in developing evolutionarily principled conceptual models of human intrapsychic organization. I am especially fascinated by the adaptive function(s) of conscious experience. I seek fuller understanding of how unconscious information processing and regulatory mechanisms dynamically and "transparently," on a moment-to-moment basis, influence the cocktail of subjective and objective content and emotional colorings of our conscious experience. As a window into the organization and regulation of subjective experience, and as a fascinating phenomenon in and of itself, the evolution of religiosity is a longstanding special interest of mine. See the link to my "Evolution of Religiosity" course, now approximately in its 10th or 12th edition, at the top of this page.

The Evolution of Religiosity

My research on humans mostly has been on a theoretical level, although several of my doctoral students have done empirical research on human evolutionary psychology. However, I am now personally deeply engaged in human research, making a first attempt to compare the explanatory power of my adaptationist "Informational Boundaries Hypothesis" for the evolution of religion versus the likewise adaptationist "Parasite-Stress Theory of Human Values and Sociality" largely attributable to my esteemed colleagues Drs. Randy Thornhill and Corey Fincher.

The "Parasite Hypothesis" proposes that most forms of ideological, moral, and religious diversity evolved to serve as parts of our behavioral immune system. According to this idea, which is backed by impressive data, variation in all kinds of values, including those conveyed in association with religious doctrines and all kinds of supernatural narratives, create relational boundaries between human groups that are hard for pathogens to cross.

In contrast, my "Informational Boundaries Hypothesis" proposes that most religious behavior, including talk, is designed to strategically modulate social-distancing amongst subgroups (e.g., kin-groups, clans, guilds) living within larger structured metagroups and, more specifically, to do this in ways that help religiously differentiated subgroups maximally protect their valuable human capital and intellectual property, as well as other forms of subgroup-specific private and strategic information. A full explanation awaits publication - or take my course!

The Evolution of Depression

I have an ongoing interest in the adaptive significance of various forms of psychological pain, which the unconscious mind routinely injects into our conscious life, especially unipolar depression. Drs. Edward H. Hagen, Paul W. Andrews, J. Anderson (Andy) Thomson and I have worked together to publish modern Darwinian analyses of unipolar depression. I have long been exploring implications of our theory for psychotherapeutic methodologies. I first presented an integrated "social niche change" or "social navigation" model to explain minor and major depression, as well as associated suicidality, to the Human Behavior and Evolution Society and, via an invited keynote address to the Across Species Comparisons and Psychopathology (ASCAP) group, in July 1998. I also gave a keynote address to The Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry at their regional New York City meeting on Evolutionary Theory and Psychopathology, in November 1999. A foundational paper on this adaptationist theory of depression was published with Dr. Paul W. Andrews in the Journal of Affective Disorders (October 2002; v. 72, pp. 1-14; get PDF); more recent related papers by myself and colleagues are available on my depression web site.

I often speak, formally and informally, to mental health practitioners to help them understand the so-called closely related niche change, social navigation, or bargaining theory of depression, and to advocate for the serious testing of the theory. I occasionally run interactive presentations and workshops for mental health professionals and members of the general public who seek a better understanding of evolutionary ideas concerning religiosity, psychological pain, and mental disorders. I sometimes have done so with my Gestalt Therapist colleague John D. Wymore and through the Oasis continuing education program. I also interact with practitioners of various contemplative traditions who have an interest in scientifically understanding the sources of human suffering, as well as other aspects of enriched and expanded inner experience available to humans from the intrapsychic effects of meditative introspective disciplines.

Finally, a lifelong special interest of mine concerns how insights from evolutionary psychology may tremendously illuminate the "sacred psychologies" and associated introspective methods of contemplative, self-knowledge-based traditions such as Buddhism, Sufism and Gnostic Christianity. Evolutionary psychology provides a much needed "objectifying influence" as one attempts to interpret the teachings and experiences that one encounters on such paths.

To the extent that religious and philosophical beliefs or positions rely on an (unknown?) combination of imagination and thought unchecked by evidence, they can both handicap a search for objective self-knowledge and even totally close doors to productive self-inquiry. They are likely to lead to wrong assumptions and conclusions about nature in general and, especially, about human nature. Scientists everywhere readily embrace this attitude - we commit ourselves to following verifiable evidence and evidence-based theoretical frameworks, wherever they lead. I contend that this same attitude long has been a cornerstone of genuine spiritual work - a radically and ruthlessly empirical, albeit introspective personal activity, that can compliment western science in one's pursuit of self-knowledge. For more on this, see the description of my workshops at the Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California, and my website on the Gurdjieff Work.


Grants

  • Bumble bee Dr. Jacek Radwan ( Jagiellonian University , Krakow, Poland ) has been awarded a 9 month Fullbright Fellowship (9 mos, from September 2000) to collaborate with me in a study of sexual selection in acarid mites. Radwan has been studying these mites since 1990. In several species of this family, two male morphs co-occur within the same populations: fighter males have a thickened and sharply terminated third pair of legs, whereas scramblers have unmodified legs. Modified legs are used during fights to stab (often mortally) other males. A male’s morph is determined in different ways (genetically or environmentally) in different species, and thus this system provides a unique opportunity to identify ecological factors favoring male dimorphism against monomorphism and those favoring environmental morph determination against genetic. The study will have two main objectives: 1. To determine if individuals possessing phenotypes associated with lower fitness (scramblers) carry more deleterious mutations. 2. To determine whether superior metabolic competence and lower fluctuating asymmetry are associated with low mutational load and to resolve which of these measures is a better candidate for a general fitness index.
  • Hypoxia and larval care in the bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis (12 mos, from May 1996), Montana's NSF EPSCoR program. With Drs. P. Kukuk and D.L. Kilgore.
  • Courtship Energetics and the Heritability of Metabolic Competence (24 mos, from July 1994-96), National Science Foundation. Behavioral and respirometric research on the sierra dome spider Linyphia litigiosa.
  • REU supplement to support undergraduate summer research relating rates of aging to sexual competitiveness in the sierra dome spider (6 mos), NSF.

GRADUATE HIGHLIGHTS (Wow, did I have a great time being a grad student!)

  • New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Distinguished Teaching Award,1986.
  • Max-Planck-Institut fur Verhaltensphysiologie (i.e., behavioral physiology), which now survives as The Max Planck Institute of Ornithology. Visiting Research Associate, 1986. Four month appointment at Seewiesen, Germany. Established lab for protein electrophoresis, and performed paternity studies for my doctoral research and, for Prof. Wickler, population genetic analyses of the social spiders Stegodyphus dumicola and S. mimosarum. Profs. W. Wickler and U. Reyer, sponsors.
  • National Institute of Mental Health Integrative Training Grant, 1985. For work on chemical communication and courtship in the red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)and the spider Linyphia litigiosa (1 yr. tuition,stipend and supplies).Red-spotted newt
  • National Institute of Mental Health Integrative Training Grant, 1984. Chemical communication and courtship in the red-spotted newt (1 yr. tuition, stipend and supplies).
  • NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant, 1983. Reproductive behavior of the spider Linyphia litigiosa.
  • Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Graduate Research Grant, 1983. Sexual selection and chemical communication and courtship in the red-spotted newt.
  • Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid (Cornell Chapter), 1983. Reproductive behavior of the spider Linyphia litigiosa, and chemical communication in the red-spotted newt.
  • Graduate Research Assistantship, 1983. Performed electrophoretic paternity analyses on Belding's ground squirrel (Spermophilus beldingi) and the spider Linyphia litigiosa, with Paul W. Sherman and Bernard May (one semester tuition, stipend and research allowance).
  • Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid (National), 1982 and 1983. Reproductive behavior of the spider Linyphia litigiosa.

PUBLICATIONS

  • Watson, P.J. and Vasquez, M. 1981. Comparative ecology of Woodsia scopulina sporophytes and gametophytes. American Fern Journal 71, 3-9. (Thanks to the amazing Dr. Herb Wagner for helping me perform my first published research.) get PDF Woodsia scopulina, photo by Keir Morse.
  • Watson, P.J. 1986. Transmission of a female sex pheromone thwarted by males in the spider Linyphia litigiosa (Linyphiidae). Science 233, 219-221. get PDF or view abstract ; view unpublished photo of web reduction in progress; there is also this.
  • Watson, P.J. 1988. The adaptive function of sequential polyandry in the spider Linyphia litigiosa (Linyphiidae). Ph.D. Thesis. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University.
  • Watson, P.J. 1990. Female-enhanced male competition determines the first mate and principal sire in the spider Linyphia litigiosa (Linyphiidae). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 26,77-90. get PDF
  • Watson, P.J. 1991. Multiple paternity and first mate sperm precedence in the sierra dome spider, Linyphia litigiosa. Animal Behaviour 41, 135-148. get PDF
  • Watson, P.J. 1991. Multiple paternity as genetic bet-hedging in female sierra dome spiders (Linyphia litigiosa: Linyphiidae). Animal Behaviour 41, 343-360. get PDF
  • Watson, P.J. 1993. Foraging advantage of polyandry for female sierra dome spiders (Linyphia litigiosa: Linyphiidae) and assessment of alternative direct benefit hypotheses. American Naturalist 141, 440-465. get PDF or view abstract
  • Watson, P.J. and Thornhill, R. 1994. Fluctuating asymmetry and sexual selection. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9, 21-25. get PDF or view abstract
  • Watson, P.J. and Lighton, J.R.B. 1994. Sexual selection and the energetics of copulatory courtship in the sierra dome spider, Linyphia litigiosa. Animal Behaviour 48, 615-626. get PDF or  view abstract
  • Watson, P.J. 1995. Dancing in the dome. Natural History 104(3), 40-43. link to full article or get quality PDF
  • Watson, P.J. 1998. Nonrandom multi-male mating by females increases offspring growth rates in the spider Neriene litigiosa (Linyphiidae). Animal Behaviour 55, 387-403. get PDF or view abstract
  • Watson, P.J., Arnqvist, G. and Stallman, R.R. 1998. Sexual conflict and the energetic costs of mating and mate choice in water striders. American Naturalist 151, 46-58. view abstract
  • Watson, P.J. and Andrews, P.W. 2002. Toward a revised evolutionary adaptationist analysis of depression: the social navigation hypothesis. Journal of Affective Disorders 72, 1-14. get PDF
  • Radwan, J., Watson, P.J., Farslow, J., and Thornhill, R. 2003. Procrustean analysis of fluctuating asymmetry in the bulb mite, Rhizoglyphus robini Claparede (Astigmata: Acaridae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 80, 499-505. get PDF
  • deCarvalho, T.N., Watson, P.J., and Field, S. 2004. Costs increase as ritualized fighting progresses within and between phases in the sierra dome spider, Neriene litigiosa. Animal Behaviour 68, 473-482. get PDF
  • Cline-Brown, K., and Watson, P.J. 2005. Investigating major depressive disorder from an evolutionary adaptationist perspective: fitness hindrances and the social navigation hypothesis. In: Focus on Depression Research. Devito, J.T., editor. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Hauppauge, NY . get info.
  • Hagen, E.H., Watson, P.J. and Hammerstein, P. 2008. Gestures of Despair and Hope: A View on Deliberate Self-harm From Economics and Evolutionary Biology. Biological Theory 3, 123-138. get PDF
  • Keil P.L., and Watson, P.J. 2010. Assessment of self, opponent, and resource assessment during male-male contests in the sierra dome spider, Neriene litigiosa: Linyphiidae. Animal Behaviour 80, 809-820. get PDF See note on silly misrepresentation of sierra dome contests in Elwood and Arnott (2012) "Understanding how animals fight..." Anim. Behav. 84, 1095-1102.

Manuscripts In Prep

  • Watson, P.J. The Informational Boundaries Hypothesis of Religiosity (IBH): An Expanded Honest Signaling Framework for Understanding Ingroup and Outgroup Religious Diversity as an Evolutionary Adaptation.
  • For additional results concerning decision-making processes during male-male fights in sierra dome spiders, see the doctoral dissertation of my graduate student Pamela L. Keil.
  • Watson, P.J., Submitted, under revision. Contingent behavioral incitation of male-male fighting by penultimate female sierra dome spiders. Animal Behaviour. See Carleton College press release.
  • Hagen, E., Watson, P.J., and Thomson, J.A. Submitted. Loves’ Labours Lost: Major depression as an evolutionary adaptation to obtain help from those with whom one is in conflict. Lancet.
  • deCarvalho, T.N., and Watson, P.J. Energetic consequences for soapberry bugs of feeding on preferred versus non-preferred chemically protected seeds. In Prep.
  • Watson, P.J. The energetic costs of copulatory courtship in the sierra dome spider and female choice for metabolic power. In Prep.
  • Watson, P.J. A genetic trade-off faced by females between sexually competitive and rapidly ageing sires in the sierra dome spider. In Prep.
  • Watson, P.J., Fagerlund, R., Willingham, M., Polinsky, K, Kang, J. and Kayser, A. Submitted, extended MS In Prep. Evidence of injurious male-male aggression and female chemical incitation in the lek mating system of a new species of fairy moth (Incurvariidae; Lepidoptera). view abstractWater strider

ADDITIONAL PROJECTS - Front and Back Burner

    • Evolution of Religiosity - Data Gathering Complete, Analysis Has Begun! I am collaborating with Amber Dukes, Katherine Cauthen, and several fine undergraduate research assistants on a test of my "Informational Boundaries Hypothesis (IBH)." The IBH is a novel honest commitment signaling hypothesis concerning the evolution of religiosity and religious diversity. We recently have completed an experiment in volving about 535 subjects designed to pit the IBH against the famous "Pathogen Stress Theory of Values and Sociality," which includes a pathogen (contagion evasion) hypothesis of religiosity, developed in large part by my good colleagues Drs. Randy Thornhill and Corey Fincher. Briefly, in a well-controlled within-subjects pre / post experiment, I predict that the IBH will do a much better job of explaining individual variation in religiosity per se, while the pathogen stress hypothesis will do a better job explaining shifts in more generalized and much less elaborate stranger-aversion instincts, like xenophobia.
    • I'm writing an eBook for wide and inexpensive distribution on the evolution of unipolar depression. Last semester I ran a seminar on the evolution of depression as a possible evolutionary adaptation. Based on the discussions and writings from that class, colleagues and I are in the process of writing a short book for electronic release (e.g., a Kinle Single) to the general public and psychotherapeutic community, focusing on the question, "Should the mental health community devote resources testing the 'Social Navigation' family of hypotheses concerning potentially adaptive minor and major unipolar depression: Why or Why Not?" This hypothesis includes closely related versions known in the literature as the bargaining hypothesis, the rumination hypothesis, and my favorite, the niche change hypothesis. For more on these hypotheses see my evolution of depression web site.
    • Sierra Dome Spider - Ongoing Data Collection and Analysis: I continue to work up accumulated data from many years of field and lab studies of the sierra dome spider for publication. Most of the work remaining to be published concerns the energetics of copulatory courtship and what it suggests about the female sierra dome's strategy for selecting sires for their offspring offering good genes for high metabolic and developmental competence. This summer (July 2014) I will be in Montana collecting data on a male behavior that often may have been missed during earlier work, entailing quick departures from the webs of non-virgin females in the middle of the day, even sometimes when the female is showing sexual receptivity. Another project left to be done would use morphometric techniques examine male sierra dome facial features, documented in hundreds of photos, related to mating and fertilization success in the field. And there is much more to be done - I am looking for an heir to this study system. If you are looking for a wonderfully observable and fascinating creature to study for a a PhD or Post doc, and possibly a whole career, let me know. I'll give you a personal introduction to sierra domes and get you massively kick started!
    • Associate Editor, Frontiers in Evolutionary Psychology and Neuroscience.
    • My current major writing projects are manuscripts on the evolution of human consciousness and religiosity. You'll have to wait a while for most of these, so if you are wondering what I'm thinking, take my religiosity course!
    • Local physiological adaptation and the energetic costs of alternative morphs in the soapberry bug, Jadera haematoloma (Hemiptera). Respirometric studies of different populations across North America in search of divergences in basic physiological traits.
    • Feeding preferences and the energetics of food detoxification. Collaborating with Dr. Tagide deCarvalho investigating the energetic costs of dealing with plant defensive secondary compounds in preferred and non-preferred foods in soapberry bugs
    • The role of male-male competition and female pheromones in the lek mating system of a fairy moth, Adela sp. (Adelidae). Examining the role of female pheromones and male-male assaults in a new species of fairy moth. Collaboration with taxonomist Richard Fagerlund and students from my summer behavior courses. This is another project that I would love to plug several good students into perhaps for independent study credits, in order to really nail down what's going on. The moths have a 2-3 week breeding season in late June at Flathead Lake Biological Station, where I also study the sierra dome spider. Female Adele observing males in "lek-combat-dispay" nearby. Photo by Paul J. Watson
    • Evolutionary Psychology Workshops. In collaboration with evolutionary Gestalt psychotherapist John D. Wymore, these conceptual and experiential workshops are designed for mental health professionals, personal growth counselors, and interested lay people. Various 1-2 day workshops explore evolutionary insights into (1) the structure of the human mind and the possible adaptive functions of diverse forms of psychological pain and "dysfunction," (2) the dynamic properties of human attention and the fundamental nature of awareness and self-awareness, and (3) the functional significance of unipolar depression in human social life, introducing a detailed new adaptive model of both minor and major depression with rich clinical implications. Overall, these workshops are aimed at persons having a serious interest in the adaptive design of the human psyche, the potential adaptive value of psychological pain, and the potential therapeutic or personal growth value of enhanced awareness and more objective self-understanding. Contact us for information on upcoming workshop offerings.
    • Fluctuating asymmetry and sexual success in male mayflies.
    • The adaptive function of sexual mimicry of males by female damselflies. Collaborating with undergraduates from my 1994 & 1996 field courses.
    • Multi-week zero-benefit guarding of aphid colonies by carpenter ants: slave-making aphids or investing ants?
    • The effects of operational sex ratio and female hunger on mating propensity and duration in three water strider species (Aquarius remigis, Gerris buenoi, G. incurvatus). Collaborating with undergraduates from my summer field courses.
    • A Darwinian critique of psychotherapeutic intervention strategies. I continue research for a book aimed at evaluation of treatment methods used in a spectrum of psychotherapeutic traditions. I would love to find a coauthor.
    • Development of methods to quantify levels of fluctuating asymmetry using morphometric programs based on thin plate splines relative warp analysis.Mormon cricket
    • Nutrition, re-mating propensity and contingent female sexual preferences in mormon crickets. Field and laboratory study conducted by my Animal Behavior field course from 1994-2000.

Return to top of this document
Return to UNM Biology Department Home Page

Page last updated: 18 November 2017