I am interested in large scale patterns and processes
underlying the evolution of animal diversity, and in
particular in how ecology shapes variation in morphology,
physiology and behaviour among species. A distinctive aspect of my
work is its interdisciplinary nature and focus on key biological
characteristics, such as sleep and the
placenta in mammals, that are studied in clinical
context but whose evolution and ecology are very little understood.
Using a macroevolutionary approach and state of art
phylogenetic comparative methods, I study the
ultimate costs and benefits of these important biological traits
and integrate them within broader ecological and evolutionary
theories, such as life history theory, parent-offspring conflict,
metabolic theory of ecology.
More recently I have started to
investigate what ‘makes’ a successful invasive
species, a question of interest in both basic and applied
science. This NERC funded projecttests hypotheses on how
ecological and life history traits promote invasion success in
vertebrates, and how humans bias the likelihood that some species
are introduced into novel regions.
I have also expanded my work on
mammalian reproduction by integrating behaviour, and I am currently
studying how male care influences the evolution of
life history traits and male reproductive traits. Finally, I
address hotly debated questions such as how metabolic rates
scale with body size, a central assumption of theoretical
models like the controversial metabolic theory of ecology.
Read more at: Evolutionary Comparative Ecology
‘Evolutionary architecture of reproduction in female
mammals’ (312K; grant no. BB/E014593/1; PI: Prof. Robert
Barton, Research Co-Investigator: Dr. Isabella Capellini)
West H. E. & Capellini I. (2016) Male
care and life history traits in mammals. Nature
Communications 7: 11854.
Barton R. A. & Capellini
I. (2016). Sleep, evolution and brains. Brain,
Behvaiour and Evolution, in press. (Invited
Capellini I., Baker J., Allen W., Street S.
& Venditti C. The role of life history traits in mammalian
invasion success. Ecology Letters, 18:
Capellini I., Nunn C. L.
& Barton R. A. 2015. microparasites and placental invasiveness
in eutherian mammals. PLoS One 10 (7):
e0132563. [Recommended by the Faculty1000 Women’s Health
Chiari Y., Glaberman S., Seren N., Carretero M. A. &
Capellini I. 2015. Phylogenetic signal in
amphibian sensitivity to copper sulfate in relation to
environmental temperature. Ecological Applications, 25
Capellini I. 2012.
Evolutionary significance of placental interdigitation in mammalian
reproduction. Placenta, 33: 763-768. (Invited review).
Barton R. A. & Capellini. I. (2011).
Maternal investment, life histories and the costs of brain growth
in mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, 108: 6169-6174.
Montgomery S. H., Capellini I., Venditti, C.,
Barton R. A. & Mundy N. I. (2011). Adaptive evolution of four
microcephaly genes and the evolution of brain size in anthropoid
Primates. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 28:
Capellini I., Venditti C. & Barton R. A.
2011. Placentation and maternal investment in mammals. American
Naturalist, 177, 86-98.
Capellini I., Venditti, C.
& Barton R. A. 2010. Phylogeny and the scaling of metabolic
rates in mammals. Ecology 91 (9),
Montgomery S. H., Capellini I., Barton R. A.
& Mundy N. I. (2010). Reconstructing the ups and downs of
primate brain evolution: implications for adaptive hypotheses and
Homo floresiensis. BMC Biology 8, 9.
Capellini I., McNamara P., Preston B. T., Nunn
C. L. & Barton R. A. (2009). Does sleep play a role in memory
consolidation? A comparative test. PLoS One 4 (2),
Preston B. T., Capellini I., McNamara P.,
Barton, R. A. & Nunn, C. L. (2009). Parasite resistance and the
adaptive significance of sleep. BMC Evolutionary Biology
9, 7. [Awarded a ‘Must Read’ designation by the Faculty1000 biology
Capellini I., Nunn C. L., McNamara P., Preston
B. T. & Barton R. A. 2008. Energetic constraints, not
predation, influence the evolution of sleep patterning in mammals.
Functional Ecology 22 (5), 847-853.
Capellini I., Barton R. A., McNamara P.,
Preston B. T. & Nunn C. L. 2008. Phylogenetic analysis of the
ecology and evolution of mammalian sleep. Evolution 62
Alien species are those
introduced by humans, intentionally or accidentally, outside their
native range. Alien species can inflict huge ecological
and economic damage, and are the only cause of 1 in 5 of all animal
species extinctions. Not all alien species become widespread and
invasive in novel environments, however. Identifying which ones are
likely to become future invaders is essential for effective
prevention but this is still a poorly resolved task.
Whether successful invaders have
particular characteristics that promote their success is highly
debated. Birds that establish alien populations, for
example, share key traits, such as broader ecological niches.
Little is known, however, of what makes other vertebrates
‘invasive’. Yet fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians are often
problematic invaders, and are introduced outside their native range
at an increasing pace. Most studies on the determinants of invasion
focus on establishment success in novel habitats. However, what
promotes establishment of an alien species may not promote its
range expansion post-establishment. Crucially, our understanding of
the determinants of success at spread is very limited for any
animal group. Likewise the early stages of invasion, when
prevention measures can be most effective, are the least
understood. Human preferences for some (alien) species are believed
to be particularly important at these early stages, but how
introduction pathways affect invasion success is still unclear.
We will compile the first
comprehensive database of success and failure at
introduction, establishment, and spread in non-avian vertebrates at
the global scale. Using state of art phylogenetic
comparative methods, we will first investigate the role of
human preferences and activities in biological invasions. Next, we
will test whether successful invaders exhibit reproductive and
ecological characteristics that distinguish them from unsuccessful
alien species, and whether determinants of success vary across
stages of invasion.
This project will enable us to:
(i) understand how human related factors facilitate
non-avian vertebrates’ introduction and success into novel
environments; (ii) reveal what traits successful alien vertebrates
share at each stage of invasion; (iii) determine the relative
importance of human related factors versus species traits in
invasion success; and (iv) assess the generality of conclusions for
PI: Dr Isabella Capellini
Postdoctoral researchers: Dr
Sally Street and Dr Jorge
Funding: NERC New Investigator Award
(620K; grant n. NE/K013777/1; 2014-2017)
Capellini I., Baker J., Allen
W., Street S. & Venditti C. The role of life history traits in
mammalian invasion success. Ecology Letters, 18: