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Biological Sciences - Student Presentation

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Biological Sciences


Infection can cause hosts to alter allocation to key life history traits. Infected individuals are generally expected to increase investment in defense (e.g., immune function) and, owing to underlying trade-offs, investment in other traits (e.g., current reproduction) is expected to decrease. However, the terminal investment hypothesis proposes that decreased lifespan due to infection, and the associated reduction in the expectation for future offspring, will favor increased investment in current reproduction to maximize lifetime reproductive success. Although terminal investment has been demonstrated in a wide array of taxa, its occurrence is not ubiquitous. I propose that conflicting findings can be reconciled if we consider terminal investment as a dynamic strategy with its expression contingent on context. For example, any factor that influences an individual’s expectation for future offspring (e.g., age) beyond the specific threat potentially cuing terminal investment may alter an individual’s propensity to adopt the strategy. I present a series of studies that address terminal investment and explore its dynamic nature across several important contexts using male decorated crickets (Gryllodes sigillatus), a species particularly amenable for large-scale assessments of reproduction, and more broadly, life history strategies.


This talk was presented as part of the 2018 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition finals at Illinois State University. 3MT develops academic, presentation, and research communication skills and supports the development of research students’ capacity to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Students are allowed to use one static slide, and no additional transitions, animation, video, or props. Presentations are all spoken word, and exclude songs and theatrical performances.