Dr Shane Wright (Te Āti Hau, Tūwharetoa) is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Auckland. He has produced a number of prominent papers and articles on the rates of evolution in different environments.
This seminar will focus on how environmental energy and population size affect rates of evolution in various organisms including plants, birds, amphibians, fish and mammals. To date, Shane’s work has shown that either faster rates of molecular evolution occur within some tropical plant and animal species compared with relatives in temperate climates, or faster rates of evolution in larger populations. This implies that, rather than occurring in an unstructured and diffuse way, evolution is spatially ordered according to energetically and areally determined polarities. Then, the history of life could be not solely expressed as a time sequence, but also to have an expression in space. Such a concept suggests that ancient forms or character states should be more likely to occur in harsher or physically proscribed habitats as the result of their tendency to displacement down gradients of available energy under the continuing pressure generated by ongoing production of new forms at energetically favourable evolutionary centres. These centres might be defined by area, since higher total energy will be received in more spacious habitats with larger populations; or by climatic parameters, since per capita energy flux will be higher in more benign climates.