Washington University in St. Louis,
Campus Box 1137, One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
The Botero Laboratory uses a variety of tools from ecology and evolutionary biology to explore how life, from bacteria to humans, copes with and adapts to repeated environmental change. Using theoretical models, large-scale comparative analyses, and experiments in the lab and the field, we seek to uncover how the evolutionary process changes under fluctuating selection and increased environmental unpredictability. Our lab's goals are to discover general principles in biology and to shed some light into the mechanisms that drive them.
Three areas of current interest in the Botero lab are:
Eco-evolutionary dynamics of extreme environments.- Environmental stochasticity and frequent exposure to environmental extremes promote the evolution of a variety of adaptations (including bet hedging and enhanced cognition). We are actively investigating the feedback loops between ecological parameters and evolutionary responses to extreme environments in wild bird populations.
Cultural evolution.- Human groups have developed over time a variety of beliefs, social norms, subsistence strategies and ways to interact with the natural world. Such remarkable cultural diversity has often resulted from the gradual accumulation of changes in behavior and beliefs that sometimes (but not always) parallels the process of genetic evolution. We are part of an exciting multinational collaborative effort that is developing the tools of ecology and evolutionary biology to better fit the study of cultural diversity and cultural evolution.
Experimental evolution.- Theoretical principles drive the research at the Botero Laboratory and new lines of work are often started in our group by formalizing ideas with the help of evolutionary models. At Wash U, our lab is taking our experimental evolution work from strictly in silico (i.e., individual based simulation modeling) to in vivo using evolving populations of yeasts. This exciting new component of our lab is allowing us to test classic hypotheses in ecology and evolution and is already informing our efforts in developing new theory.
KR Kirby, DE Blasi, CA Botero†, C Bowern, K Cranston, C Ember, W Divale, R Gray, SJ Greenhill, F Jordan, D Leehr, B S Low, J McCarter, S Gomes-Ng, and M Gavin. 2016. D-PLACE: A Global Database of Peoples, Languages, Cultures, and Environment. PLoS ONE. 11(7), e0158391. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0158391
Rubenstein DR, CA Botero*, and EA Lacey. 2016. Discrete but variable structure in animal societies leads to the false perception of a social continuum. Royal Society Open Science 3: 160147
Botero CA*, LJ Harmon and Q Atkinson. 2016. The promise and limits of eco-evolutionary studies of human culture: a comment on Sloan Wilson et al. Religion, Brain and Behavior. doi: 10.1080/2153599X.2015.1132249
Sheehan MJ, Botero CA, Hendry TA, Sedio BE, Jandt JM, Weiner S, Toth AL, and EA Tibbetts.b 2015. Different axes of environmental variation explain the formation versus size of cooperative nest founding associations in Polistes paper wasps. Ecology Letters.
Botero CA, FJ Weissing, J Wright, and DR Rubenstein. 2015. Evolutionary tipping points in the capacity to adapt to environmental change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 112(1): 184-189. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1408589111.
Botero CA, Gardner B, Kirby KR, Bulbulia J, Gavin MC and R Gray. 2014. The ecology of religious beliefs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 111(47) 16784-16789. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1408701111.
Botero CA, R Dor, C McCain, and RJ Safran. 2014. Environmental harshness is positively correlated with intraspecific divergence in mammals and birds. Molecular Ecology 23: 259-268.
Gavin MC, CA Botero, C Bowern, RK Colwell, M Dunn, RR Dunn, RD Gray, KR Kirby, J McCarter, A Powell, T Rangel, J Stepp, M Trautwein, JL Verdolin, and G Yanega. 2013. Towards a mechanistic understanding of linguistic diversity. Bioscience 63(7):524-535.
Seddon, N*, CA Botero*, JA Tobias, PO Dunn, HEA MacGregor, DR Rubenstein, JAC Uy, JT Weir, LA Whittingham, and RJ Safran. 2013. Sexual selection accelerates signal evolution during speciation in birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 280(1766): 20131085. doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.1065 [* Joint first authors / equal contribution]
Botero, CA & de Kort, SR. 2013. Learned signals and consistency of delivery: a case against receiver manipulation in animal communication. In: Stegmann, U. (ed) Animal Communication Theory: Information and Influence. Cambridge University Press. p. 281-296.
Botero, CA & Rubenstein DR. 2012. Fluctuating environments, sexual selection and the evolution of flexible mate choice in birds. PLoS ONE. 7(2): e32311
Botero, CA, I. Pen, J. Komdeur, and F.J. Weissing. 2010. The evolution of individual variation in communication strategies. Evolution. 64: 3123-3133.
Botero, CA, Boogert, N, Lovette, IJ, and Vehrencamp, SL. 2009. Climatic patterns predict the elaboration of song displays in mockingbirds. Current Biology. 19:1-5.