Rob Knell

Senior lecturer, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, UK.

Research

Current postgrads

Latest publications

Publications: Infectious disease ecology and evolution

Publications: Ecological immunology

Publications: Sexual selection

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

CV

STDs of animals

Contact me

Read about my secret life as a MONSTER TRUCK DRIVER!

Rob


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

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

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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, sex or both. 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. An ongoing NERC funded project in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Liverpool is studying the effects of temperature on the transmission dynamics of sexually ransmitted mite parasites of ladybird beetles.

One aspect of an animal's interaction with parasites that is quite easy to study, at least in invertebrates, is the immune response. 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 responses. I have recently been awarded a research grant from NERC to investigate the effects of environmental change on immunity and population dynamics in insects - this project will be starting in the next few months.

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?



Current postgrads

Mark Stevenson - Co supervised with Steve LeComber in SBCS. Working on applications of geographic profiling in spatial ecology.

Aisyah Faruk - Co supervised with Trent Garner at the Institute of Zoology. Working on the effects of habitat change on frog communities.

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


Publications

Latest papers

Ryder, J.J., Pastok, D., Hoare, M.J., Bottery, M.J., Boots, M., Knell, R.J., Atkinson, D. and Hurst, G.D.D. (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, 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.

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, 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.

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.



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