Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Jennifer Lee Rose Hills

Understanding Coexistence Of The Hawaiian Tetragnatha Spiders

Understanding niche differentiation is fundamental for comprehending the complicated process of adaptive radiation, characterized by the rapid formation of many ecologically different species from a single ancestor. However, evolutionary biologists still highly debate how niche differentiation is achieved during the early stage of adaptive radiation. On the one hand, through character displacement, natural selection could facilitate differentiation and diversification between closely related species where they co-occur with no need for prior niche differentiation at the time of secondary contact. Alternatively, enough niche differentiation between species can be achieved in isolation before range overlap, facilitating coexistence and reducing the chance for competitive exclusion. Therefore, this project aims to conduct a comparative analysis between sympatric and allopatric populations of the three species of the green ecomorphs of Hawaiian Tetragnatha “spiny-leg” spiders (T. waikamoi, T. brevignatha, & T. macracantha) to answer how these species can coexist with one another based on different dimensions of niches. Using carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures of the spiders’ tissues and other morphological assessments in sites where the taxa do and do not co-occur will help address this question. Therefore, this study will allow insights into the Hawaiian “spiny-leg” spiders’ diversification patterns and the mechanisms driving adaptive radiation.

Message To Sponsor

Thank you so much for funding my summer research experience. I am extremely grateful to receive your funding to maneuver and learn how to conduct various research methodologies (both in the lab and in the field). Because of your generosity, I am able to engage in an in-person research project that has the potential to be culminated into a honors thesis project. As a person with no previous research experience, your support opened so many doors and also provided me with an opportunity I would have otherwise never been able to have. So, thank you so much!
Major: Integrative Biology/Psychology
Mentor: Rosemary Gillespie
Sponsor: SURF Rose Hills
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