Dr Johanna F. Nielsen
- Present: Research Technician, Institute of Zoology.
- 2008–2012: NERC CASE PhD Student, University of Edinburgh & Institute of Zoology.
- 2006–2008: Research Technician, Institute of Zoology.
- 2005: BSc (Hons) Biological Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
- 2001–2004: BSc Ecology & Zoology, University of Otago, New Zealand.
The evolutionary genetics of cooperation in meerkats
Although the evolution of cooperative behaviour has been well explored, very little is known of the genetic mechanisms controlling its development, of the extent to which individual differences in cooperative contributions have a heritable component or of the evolutionary mechanisms maintaining variation in natural populations. The long-term study of Kalahari meerkats has shown that there are large individual differences in contributions to cooperative behaviour and my PhD aimed to investigate, for the first time in a cooperative mammal, the genetic basis of this variation.
Chemoreception forms a major part of the interaction between organisms and their environment; habitat and mate choice may generate prezygotic reproductive isolation and ultimately the formation of separate species. My work as a Research Technician with Dr. Bill Jordan involved determining the expression patterns of Drosophila olfactory and gustatory receptor genes and any possible correlations with coding sequence divergence.
Pycnogonids, or sea spiders, are a fascinating and unique group of organisms whose evolutionary relationships have been difficult to determine, even at the highest levels of classification. My honours dissertation investigated the molecular phylogenetics of sea spiders collected from a 2004 Antarctic biodiversity survey (Supervisors: Dr. Shane Lavery & Dr. Anne-Nina Lörz ). Sequence data for four genes from a diversity of Antarctic taxa were used to investigate some of the inter-familiar relationships of sea spiders.
Publications & Theses:
Bateman, A. W., Ozgul, A., Nielsen, J. F., Coulson, T. & Clutton-Brock, T. H. (2013). Social structure mediates environmental effects on group size regulation in an obligate cooperative breeder, Suricata suricatta . Ecology 94(3): 587-597.
English, S. Huchard, E., Nielsen, J. F. & Clutton-Brock, T. H. (accepted). Early growth, dominance acquistion and lifetime reproductive success in male and female cooperative meerkats. Ecology & Evolution.
Leclaire, S., Nielsen, J. F., Sharp, S. P. & Clutton-Brock, T. H. (2013). Mating strategies in dominant meerkats: Evidence for extra-pair paternity in relation to genetic relatedness between pair mates . Journal of Evolutionary Biology 26(7): 1499-1507.
Leclaire, S., Nielsen, J. F., Thavarajah N., Manser, M. & Clutton-Brock, T. H. (2013). Odour-based kin discrimination in the cooperatively breeding meerkat . Biology Letters 9(1): 20121054.
MacLeod, K. J., Nielsen, J. F. & Clutton-Brock, T. H. (accepted). Factors predicting the frequency, likelihood and duration of allonursing in the cooperatively breeding meerkat. Animal Behaviour.
Nielsen, J. F. (2013). The evolutionary genetics of meerkats (Suricata suricatta) . PhD Thesis (255pp.), School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, U.K.
Madden, J.H., Nielsen, J.F. & Clutton-Brock, T.H. (2012) Do networks of social interactions reflect patterns of kinship? Current Zoology 58(2): 319-328.
Nielsen, J.F. , English, S., Goodall-Copestake, W.P., Wang, J., Walling, C.A., Bateman, A., Flower, T.P., Sutcliffe, R.L., Samson, J., Thavarajah, N.K., Kruuk, L.E.B., Clutton-Brock, T.H. & Pemberton, J.M. (2012) Inbreeding and inbreeding depression of early life traits in a cooperative mammal . Molecular Ecology 21(11): 2788-2804.
Press coverage in BBC , Cambridge News , The Courier & Advertiser, The Daily Mail , The Daily Record, The Herald, i , The Independent , The London Evening Standard , Metro, Newsround , The Scotsman , STV , The Press and Journal and The Western Daily Press.
Nielsen, J.F. , Lavery, S. & Lörz, A. (2009) Synopsis of a new collection of sea spiders (Arthropoda: Pycnogonida) from the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Polar Biology 32(8): 1147–1155.
Nielsen, J.F. , Lörz, A. & Lavery, S. (2007) Putting Antarctic sea spiders in their place. NIWA Water & Atmosphere 15(4): 12-13.
Nielsen, J.F. (2005) The Molecular Phylogenetics of Antarctic Sea Spiders (Pycnogonida).
BSc (Hons) Dissertation (108pp.), School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
Evolution & Molecular Ecology
T: +44 (0) 207 449 6620
F: +44 (0) 207 586 2870
Institute of Zoology
Zoological Society of London
London, United Kingdom