Examples of behavioral diversity and evolution are plentiful, yet we still know relatively little about the molecular mechanisms of behavioral adaptation. How many and which genes contribute to ecologically-important behavioral variation? Do behavioral differences arise from structural changes (e.g. circuit structure), functional changes (e.g. neurophysiology), or both? Are certain systems—such as sense organs or neuromodulators—predisposed to be targets of evolutionary change? To address these questions, I use an integrative approach that combines a naturalist’s enthusiasm for animal diversity and evolution with modern molecular and genetic tools. My research takes advantage of dramatic natural differences in the behavior of two subspecies of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, including host-preference behavior and hatching behavior.
Hu C, York R, Metz HC, Bedford NL, Fraser H, & Hoekstra HE. Behavior-dependent cis-regulation reveals genes and pathways associated with burrow evolution in Peromyscus mice. Link to paper
Metz HC, & McBride CS. 2018. Malaria parasites alter human odor to attract mosquito vectors. Trends in Parasitology 34(7):547-549. Link to paper
Metz HC, Bedford NL, Pan YL, & Hoekstra HE. 2017. Evolution and genetics of precocious burrowing behavior in Peromyscus mice. Current Biology 27:3837-3845.