I am interested in a broad range of fundamental questions in evolutionary biology. My current research focuses on the following topics:

1. Evolution of Extended Inheritance

Besides the tremendous importance of genetic inheritance, a growing amount of studies find evidence for nongenetic effects, whereby parents influence the phenotypes of offspring and later descendants through the transmission of epimutations, small RNAs, maternal hormones, nutrition or antibodies. Although the evolutionary consequences of nongenetic effects are now starting to be understood, we currently do not know whether such nongenetic effects are by-products of other physiological processes or whether they are adaptive. By providing novel evolutionary models of nongenetic effects, we aim to unravel under which social and environmental conditions nongenetic effects are likely to benefit populations. I am currently in the process of testing some predictions regarding nongenetic effects using datasets of human populations.

Collaborators: Rebecca Hoyle (USurrey), Rufus Johnstone (UCambridge), Stuart Townley (UExeter)

Key publications:

  • B. Kuijper & R. B. Hoyle. (2015) When to rely on maternal effects and when on phenotypic plasticity? Evolution 69: 950-968. doi, pdf
  • B. Kuijper, R.A. Johnstone, S. Townley. (2014). The evolution of multivariate maternal effects. PLoS Comp. Biol. 10: e1003550. doi pdf
  • B. Kuijper, R.A. Johnstone. (2013). How should parents adjust the size of their young in response to local environmental cues? J. Evol. Biol. 26: 1488-1498. doi

2. Coadaptation between nucleus and cytoplasm

In contrast to the prevalent idea that all cytoplasmic elements present in a single individual (such as mitochondria, chloroplasts or endosymbionts) are genetically identical, recent deep-sequencing analyses reveal a surprising amount of within-individual variation in the cytoplasm. Yet, the causes and consequences of within-individual variation are poorly understood. My work focuses on models of multilevel selection at the cytoplasmic and organismal levels. One aim is to arrive at a descriptive model of mitochondrial dynamics in humans, mice and other model organisms, to provide more insight about the role of bottlenecks and the relative impact of drift versus selection. Another aim is to assess the role of within-individual cytoplasmic variation on genetic conflicts between nucleus and cytoplasm.

Collaborators: Nick Lane (UCL), Andrew Pomiankowski (UCL)

Key publications:

  • B. Kuijper, N. Lane, A. Pomiankowski. (2015). Can paternal leakage maintain sexually antagonistic polymorphism in the cytoplasm? J. Evol. Biol. in press

3. Sexual Selection

Why females prefer males with detrimental ornaments such as elaborate tails, songs or pheromones is a long-standing conundrum for evolutionary theory. As influential hypotheses on the evolution of female preferences (e.g., Fisher's sexy sons, good genes) have had mixed success in field studies, my aim is to find out how robust existing predictions are to more ecological and genetic realism. For example, how do geographically structured populations affect the scope for female preferences and can mating preferences evolve in popular model organisms such as hermaphroditic worms or yeast?

Collaborators: Lukas Schärer (UBasel), Andrew Pomiankowski (UCL), Ido Pen (UGroningen), Franjo Weissing (UGroningen), Tim Fawcett (UBristol)

Key publications:

  • B. Kuijper, I. Pen, F.J. Weissing. (2012). A guide to sexual selection theory. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 43: 287-311. doi, pdf, supplement, C source code
  • T.W. Fawcett*, B. Kuijper*, F.J. Weissing, I. Pen. (2011). Sex-ratio control erodes sexual selection, revealing evolutionary feedback from adaptive plasticity. PNAS 108: 15925-15930. doi, pdf