PhD student, Barton Group

Email: tom.ellis@remove-this.ist.ac.at

Tel: +43 2243 9000 3010

Research interests

I am interested in the origins and spread of biological diversity at the genetic, phenotypic and ecological levels. With its short generation time, ease of cultivation, molecular and genomic tools as well as abundant natural variation for ecologically relevant traits, the snapdragon Antirrhinum magus is an excellent tool for investigating the causes and consequences of variance in reproductive success.

We study contact zones between two subspecies of Antirrhinum magus in the Pyrenees which differ for genes controlling yellow and magenta pigmentation in the flowers. Where populations meet tight hybrid zones form and alleles at floral pigment loci recombine to give a striking array of hybrid phenotypes, ranging from white to orange. Nevertheless, the sharp gradient between yellow and magenta implies a strong selective force acting to prevent dispersal.

My thesis focusses on the effect pollinators play in maintaining this barrier. I am using a combination of field and experimental data to identify the phenotypic and demographic factors which contribute to variation in pollinator visitation. Furthermore I use paternity analysis of wild-pollinated seedlings to directly infer patterns of assortative mating and dispersal in nature.