Welcome to the webpage of Susan N. Gershman. I study the evolution of animal behavior. I am most interested in sexual selection, differential reproduction caused by heritable differences in the ability to reproduce. I study how trade-offs within individuals, and interactions between individuals affect sexually selected traits. I also study the evolution of complex traits, and the effect of environment on the expression of complex traits.
I have primarily used crickets and Drosophila flies as my study systems, but I also work with other insects like bedbugs and beetles. Although these animals are small and easily manipulated in the laboratory, the behaviors that they demonstrate are representative of similar interactions in other less tractable taxa. Some of the research questions that I address include: What behavioral and morphological adaptations do males use to outcompete other males for reproductive success? How do adaptations that help males outcompete other males affect females? When male traits that are attractive to females are complex, how can selection act on these traits and on female preference for male traits? To address these questions, my research draws on techniques from behavioral ecology, life history evolution, quantitative genetics, immunology, and analytical chemistry.