Rob Knell

Reader in Evolutionary Ecology, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, UK.

Research

Postgrads

Latest publications

Publications: Infectious disease ecology and evolution

Publications: Ecological immunology

Publications: Sexual selection

Publications: Other (whale sunburn, spatial stats etc.) 

Work with me? Jobs, fellowships, PhD studentships...

A couple of videos: dinosaur discovery and frog bothering

CV

STDs of animals

Contact me

Read about my secret life as a MONSTER TRUCK DRIVER!

Rob



Introductory R: A Beginner's Guide to Data Visualisation and Analysis Using R

New book available: see web page here or buy online from

Amazon UK (Kindle format)
Amazon US (Kindle format)

Kobo
(ePub)






Research Interests


Onthophagus imperator
A male Onthophagus imperator showing off his horn
I am interested in a variety of different aspects of ecology and evolution, mainly to do with either parasites, immune systems, sex or all three. I currently hold an NERC research grant which is funding research into population-level responses to climate change in insects, with an emphasis on how immune reactivity changes with alterations in temperature and resource availability.

More generally, I have been interested in how the environment affects immune investment in animals generally and a several recent or current postgraduate students have worked with me on questions associated with this.

Moving away from the parasitism angle, I am interested in the evolution of mating systems and especially of sexual ornamentation. I am particularly interested in the function and evolution of the weapons used by male animals in contests with rivals. Most such weapons are used more for show than as actual weapons, so why is it usually the case that the male with the larger horns, antlers, dewlap or eyestalks usually wins when it comes to a fight. What properties of the male are being signalled by these traits? Recent research in my lab is bringing this and my interest in environmental change together to ask how sexual selection affects adaptation rates and vulnerability to extinction, using both experimental and theoretical approaches.

My interest in the links between parasites and mating systems has led me to some research in the ecology and evolution of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and their effect on the evolution of host mating systems. As part of a recent NERC funded project  in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Liverpool we studied the effects of temperature on the transmission dynamics of sexually transmitted mite parasites of ladybird beetles - the results from this research are being published at the moment.

 A recent project grant from the
Leverhulme Trust gave us the opportunity to study the relationship between investment in immunity and in reproduction in a horned beetle, Euoniticellus intermedius, and other recent research has been looking into how environmental factors can alter immune response.



Current PhD students

Joanne Littlefair - Working on transgenerational effects of food quality on immunity in insects.

Jon Parrett - Working on sexual selection and adaptation to changing environments

Past PhD students

Joanne Pomfret               2000-2004    Sexual selection and weapon evolution


Peter Staves                   2004-2008    Evolution of virulence and competition between parasites


Alison Triggs                  2006-2010    Environmental effects on insect immunity


Laura Martinez (co-supervised with Dr Karina Acevedo Whitehouse, Institute of Zoology)          2007-2011    Effects of UV irradiance on whales


Aisyah Faruk (co-supervised with Dr Trent Garner, Institute of Zoology)          2008-2012     Effects of habitat change on frog communities.


Mark Stevenson (co-supervised with Dr. Steven leComber, QMUL)     2009-2013.     Applications of geographic profiling in spatial ecology.



Publications

Latest papers



Ryder JJ, Hoare M-J, Pastok D, Bottery M, Boots M, Fenton A, Atkinson D, Knell Robert J., Hurst GDD. 2014. Disease Epidemiology in Arthropods Is Altered by the Presence of Nonprotective Symbionts. The American Naturalist 183:E89–E104.

Martinez-Levasseur, LM, Gendron, D, Knell, RJ and Acevedo-Whitehouse, K (2013). Control and target gene selection for studies on UV-induced genotoxicity in whales. BMC Research Notes 6: Article 264

Knell R (2013). Introductory R: A Beginner's Guide to Data Visualisation and Analysis using R. Self-published book.

Martinez-Levasseur, LM, Birch-Machin, MA, Bowman, A, Gendron, D, Weatherhead, E, Knell, RJ and Acevedo-Whitehouse, K (2013) . Whales use distinct strategies to counteract solar ultraviolet radiation. Scientific Reports 3: Article 2386

Faruk, A, Belabut, D, Ahmad, N, Knell, RJ and Garner, TWJ (2013). Effects of oil-palm plantations on diversity of tropical anurans. Conservation Biology 27: 615-624.

Knell, RJ, Naish, D, Tomkins, JL and Hone, DWE (2013). Is sexual selection defined by dimorphism alone? A reply to Padian and Horner. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28: 250-251.

Ryder, JJ, Pastok, D, Hoare, MJ, Bottery, MJ, Boots, M, Knell, RJ, Atkinson, D and Hurst, GDD (2012) Spatial variation in food supply, mating behavior, and sexually transmitted disease epidemics. Behavioral Ecology, published online 30th November 2012, doi: 10.1093/beheco/ars209. Can be downloaded from here if you or your institution has a sub, alternatively email me for a pdf.

Knell, RJ, Naish, D, Tomkins, JL, & Hone, DWE (2013). Sexual selection in prehistoric animals: detection and implications. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 28, 38-47 Can be downloaded from here if you or your institution has a sub, alternatively email me for a pdf.

Triggs, A.M. and Knell, R.J. (2012) Parental diet has strong transgenerational effects on offspring immunity. Functional Ecology, published online 28th August 2012doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.02051.x Download here.


Stevenson MD, Rossmo K, Knell RJ et al. (2012) . Geographic profiling as a novel spatial tool for targeting the control of invasive species. Ecography 8, 704-715. Download pdf.


Triggs AM, Knell RJ (2012) . Interactions between environmental variables determine immunity in the Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella. Journal of Animal Ecology vol. 81, (2) 386-394. Download here.

Martinez-Levasseur LM, Gendron D, Knell RJ et al. (2011) . Acute sun damage and photoprotective responses in whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B (Biological Sciences). 278 1581-1586. Download pdf.


Knell, RJ and Sampson, S. (2011) . Bizarre structures in dinosaurs: species recognition or sexual selection? A response to Padian and Horner. Journal of Zoology 283, 18-22. Download pdf


Knell, RJ (2011) . Male contest competition and the evolution of weapons. Ecology and Evolution of Dung Beetles, Editors: Simmons, LW, Ridsdill-Smith, TJ, Wiley-Blackwell. You can download a proof of this chapter here, or you can purchase a copy of this wonderful volume here.

The full list (cunningly including the ones already listed above so that it looks like more)

Infectious Disease Ecology and Evolution


Knell, R.J., Begon, M. and Thompson, D.J. (1996) Transmission dynamics of Bacillus thuringiensis infecting Plodia interpunctella: a test of the mass action assumption with an insect pathogen. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B (Biological Sciences), Vol.263 pp 75-81. Abstract

Knell, R.J., Begon, M. and Thompson, D.J. (1996) Comparative transmission dynamics of two insect pathogens. In: Frontiers of Population Ecology (Floyd, R.B., Sheppard, A.W. and De Barro, P.J., eds.), CSIRO publishing. pp 269-276.

Knell, R.J., Begon, M. and Thompson, D.J. (1998) Host-pathogen population dynamics, basic reproductive rates and threshold densities. Oikos Vol. 81 pp 299-308. Abstract

Knell, R.J., Begon, M. and Thompson, D.J. (1998) Transmission of Plodia interpunctella Granulosis Virus does not conform to the mass action model. Journal of Animal Ecology Vol. 67 pp 592-599. Abstract

Knell, R.J. (1999) Sexually transmitted disease and parasite mediated sexual selection. Evolution Vol 53 pp 957-961. Abstract Download a not very high-res pdf

Boots, M. and Knell, R.J. (2002) The evolution of risky behaviour in the presence of a sexually transmitted disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B (Biological Sciences), Vol.269 pp 585-589. Abstract Download pdf

Knell,, R.J. (2004) Syphilis in Renaissance Europe: rapid evolution of a virulent sexually transmitted disease? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B (Biological Sciences): Biology Letters, Vol 271, pp. S174-S176 Download pdf

Knell, R.J. and Webberley, K.M. (2004) Sexually transmitted diseases of insects: distribution, evolution, ecology and host behaviour. Biological Reviews 79, 557-581. Download pdf

Ryder, J.J., Webberley, K.M., Boots, M. and Knell, R.J. (2005) Measuring the transmission dynamics of a sexually transmitted disease. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 102, 15140-15143. Download pdf, supplementary online information here.

Hurst, G.D.D., Webberley, K.M. and Knell, R.J. (2006) The role of parasites of insect reproduction in the diversification of insect reproductive processes. Pages 205-230 in Fellowes, M.D.E., Holloway, G.J. And Rolff, J. (eds.) Insect Evolutionary Ecology: Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society's 22nd Symposium. CABI publishing, Wallingford, Oxon. UK.

Ryder, J.J., Hathway, J. and Knell, R.J. (2007) Constraints on parasite fecundity and transmission in an insect-STD system. Oikos 116, 578-584. Download pdf

Ryder, J.J., Miller, M.R., White, A., Knell, R.J. and Boots, M. (2007) Host parasite population dynamics under combined frequency- and density-dependent transmission. Oikos 116, 2017-2026. Download pdf

Staves, P.A and Knell, R.J. (2010) Virulence and competitiveness: testing the relationship during inter- and intraspecific mixed infections. Evolution 64, 2643-2652 Download pdf


Ecological immunology

Wilson, K., Knell, R.J., Boots, M. and Koch-Osbourne, J. (2003) Group living and investment in immune defence: an inter-specific analysis. Journal of Animal Ecology  72, 133-143. Abstract Download pdf

Pomfret, J.C. and Knell, R.J. (2006) Immunity and the expression of a secondary sexual trait in a horned beetle. Behavioral Ecology 17, 466-472 Download here



Reaney LT, Knell RJ (2010) . Immune activation but not male quality affects female current reproductive investment in a dung beetle. Behavioral Ecology 21, 1367-1372 Download here.


Triggs AM, Knell RJ (2012) . Interactions between environmental variables determine immunity in the Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella. Journal of Animal Ecology vol. 81, (2) 386-394. Download here.


Triggs, A.M. and Knell, R.J. (2012) Parental diet has strong transgenerational effects on offspring immunity. Functional Ecology, published online 28th August 2012doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.02051.x Download here.



Sexual selection

Knell, R.J., Fruhauf, N. and Norris, K.A. (1999) Conditional expression of a sexually selected trait in the stalk-eyed fly Diasemopsis aethiopica. Ecological Entomology Vol 24 pp 323-328. Abstract

Al-Khairulla, H., Warburton, D. and Knell, R.J. (2003) Do the eyestalks of female diopsid flies have a function in intrasexual aggressive encounters? Journal of Insect Behavior, Vol. 16, pp 679-686 Download pdf

Knell, R.J., Pomfret, J.C. and Tomkins, J.L. (2004) The limits of elaboration: curved allometries reveal the constraints on mandible size in stag beetles. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B (Biological Sciences), Vol. 271, pp 523-528 Download pdf

Knell, R.J. and Fortey, R.A. (2005) Trilobite spines and beetle horns: sexual selection in the Palaeozoic? Biology Letters, published online 27th May 2005.
DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2005.0304 Download pdf

Lailvaix, S.P., Hathway, J., Pomfret, J.C. and Knell, R.J. (2005) Horn size predicts physical performance in the beetle Euoniticellus intermedius (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Functional Ecology 19, 632-639. Download the pdf. Copyright and citation details for this paper are here.

Pomfret, J.C. and Knell, R.J. (2006) Sexual selection and horn allometry in the dung beetle Euoniticellus intermedius. Animal Behaviour, 71, 567-576. Download pdf

Pomfret, J.C. and Knell, R.J. (2008) Crowding, sex ratio and horn evolution in a South African beetle community. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B (Biological Sciences) 275: 315-321 Download pdf

Knell, R.J. (2009) On the analysis of non-linear allometries. Ecological Entomology, 34, 1-11. Download pdf

Knell, R.J. (2009) Population density and the evolution of male aggression. Journal of Zoology, 278, 83-90. Download pdf.

Knell, R.J. and Simmons, L.W. (2010) Mating tactics determine patterns of condition dependence in a dimorphic horned beetle. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B (Biological Sciences) 277:2347-2353 Download pdf

Knell, R.J. and Sampson, S. (2011) . Bizarre structures in dinosaurs: species recognition or sexual selection? A response to Padian and Horner. Journal of Zoology 283, 18-22. Download pdf


Knell, R.J. (2011) . Male contest competition and the evolution of weapons. Ecology and Evolution of Dung Beetles, Editors: Simmons, LW, Ridsdill-Smith, TJ, Wiley-Blackwell. You can download a proof of this chapter here, or you can purchase a copy of this wonderful volume here.

Knell, R. J., Naish, D., Tomkins, J. L., & Hone, D. W. E. (2013). Sexual selection in prehistoric animals: detection and implications. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 28, 38-47 Can be downloaded from here if you or your institution has a sub, alternatively email me for a pdf.

Other


Knell, R.J. (1998) Generation cycles (review paper). Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol. 13 No. 5 pp 86-190. Abstract

Tomkins, J.L., Simmons, L.W., Knell, R.J. and Norris, K.A. (1999) Correlates of ball size and rolling speed in the dung beetle Kheper nigroaeneus (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Journal of Zoology Vol 248 pp 483-487. Abstract

Knell, R.J.(2006) New gene, new disease. Heredity Vol 97 p315. Download the pdf

Martinez-Levasseur LM, Gendron D, Knell RJ et al. (2011) . Acute sun damage and photoprotective responses in whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B (Biological Sciences). 278 1581-1586. Download pdf.


Stevenson MD, Rossmo K, Knell RJ et al. (2012) . Geographic profiling as a novel spatial tool for targeting the control of invasive species. Ecography 8, 704-715. Download pdf.


Work with me? Job and fellowship opportunities, postgrad work etc.

I don't currently have any jobs available in my lab but if you think you might be interested in working on the sorts of things that I'm interested in drop me a line. Potential PhD students, postdoc fellows etc. are always welcome. QMUL has specific fee waiver programmes for potential PhD students from Brazil and China but if get in touch if you're from elsewhere as well.


A couple of videos: dinosaur discovery and frog bothering


Video from field trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park, Canada



Frogging in Borneo (Kuala Belalong, Brunei Darusalaam) as part of our Tropical Ecology field course



Curriculum vitae

October 1999-present:

Lecturer in School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London.

May1999-September 1999:

Post-doctoral research associate at the Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Stirling. NERC funded postdoctoral position investigating the relationship between group living and immune response in lepidoptera.

February 1996-April 1999:

Lecturer in the Department of Zoology (now part of the Department of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

October 1992-January 1996:

PhD Student in The School of Biological Sciences, The University of Liverpool. Thesis title 'The Population Ecology of Two Insect Pathogens'

October 1988-June 1991:

BSc student, Department of Biology, Imperial College, London

Various trivia

May 1992-September 1992:

Field technician for Trent and Peak Archaeological Trust, Nottingham.

August 1991-April 1992:

Field technician for Fenland Archaeological Trust, Peterborough.

Summer 1989:

Summer student employed in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Section, Horticultural Research International, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.

July-September 1988:

Voluntary work in Kenya: assisted with a project studying drug resistant malaria and collected snake venom for epidemiological study.

December 1987-June 1988:

Assistant Scientific Officer, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Section, Horticultural Research International, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.


Contact details

Email: r.knell@qmul.ac.uk

Address: School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK

Phone: Work: +44 (0)20 7882 7720

Fax: +44 (0)20 8983 0973