Dr. Lisa A. Taylor
Sexual selection and the evolution of colorful courtship displays. Much of Dr. Taylor’s current work focuses on jumping spiders, because these make excellent models to understand the evolution of color. Jumping spiders are a highly diverse group of visual predators. There are more than 5000 species, many of which exhibit extreme color diversity between the sexes and across the family. She is examining how the uncertainty of these animals’ environments may have shaped the complexity of their courtship displays which often incorporate elements of color, movement, vibrations, and scent. She is also examining the idea that male courtship displays act as ‘sensory traps’, exploiting the female’s psychology in ways that allow males to avoid cannibalism.
Predator psychology and the evolution of prey coloration. It has been long recognized that the psychology of predators' shapes how they interact with their prey and this will influence how prey defenses such as aposematic colors evolve. This rich field of inquiry has focused almost exclusively on avian predators, despite the fact that many arthropod predators show diverse abilities to perceive and learn about color. Dr. Taylor is examining the perceptual and cognitive abilities of arthropods such as spiders and spider-hunting mud dauber wasps to understand how they may shape the evolution of color in their prey. For example, how do these predators locate, choose, and learn about their prey? And how have the color patterns of prey evolved to influence/exploit these decisions?