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Molly R. Morris

Molly Morris

Contact Information

 • Email:Molly Morris
 • Website: Morris Lab
 • Phone:740-593-0337
 • Office:243 Life Science Building
 • Lab:260 Life Science Building


 • BIOS 3300: Principles of Evolution
 • BIOS 4930/5930 : Animal Behavior
 • BIOS 6930: Behavioral Ecology
  Research Interests:

My research interests are in sexual selection, the evolution of alternative mating strategies, and the evolution of communication in aggressive interactions. Currently in my lab we are examining the evolution of a sexually selected signal (vertical bars) and the mating behaviors associated with this signal in swordtail and platyfishes (Xiphophorus). Mating is one of the most important selection events driving the evolution of diversity. We examine the role that female mating preferences and the aggressive interactions between males play in the evolution of diverse behaviors, morphologies and new species. The fishes we study are found in small, freshwater streams in Mexico. We observe behavior in the field as well as the laboratory. In addition, we use molecular techniques to examine gene flow, conduct paternity analyses and estimate phlogenetic relationships among populations and species. The phylogenetic trees we construct allow us to examine the evolution of behaviors and morphology across species, and test hypotheses about the evolution of female preferences and male-male aggressive behaviors, as well as the evolution of these species.


I received a B.A. from Earlham College in 1978 and a Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1987. After a postdoctoral fellowship at University of Texas, Austin, I held faculty positions at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Montgomery College, before accepting my current position in the Department of Biological Sciences at Ohio University. I have been elected both secretary and president of the Animal Behavior Society, and currently serve as an Associate Editor for the journal Behaviour.

Representative Publications:
  • Morris, M. R., Brewer, J. and Ríos-Cárdenas, O. (2010) Variation in mating preference within a wild population influences the mating success of alternative mating strategies. Animal Behavior 79, 673-678.

  • Robinson, D. Tudor, M.S and Morris, M. R. (2011) Female preference and the evolution of an exaggerated male ornament: the shape of the preference function matters. Animal Behaviour 81, 1015-1021.

  • Tudor M.S. and Morris, M. R., (2011) Frequencies of alternative mating strategies influence female mate preference in the swordtail Xiphophorus multilineatus. Animal Behaviour 82, 1313-1317.

  • Morris, M. R. Rios-Cardenas, O. S. Lyons, M. S. Tudor, and Bono, L. (2012). Fluctuating asymmetry indicates optimization of growth rate over developmental stability. Functional Ecology, 26, 23-731.

  • Morris, M. R., Goedert, D., Abbott J. K., Robinson D. M. and Rios-Cardenas O. (2013) Intralocus tactical conflict and the evolution of alternative reproductive tactics. Advances in the Study of Behavior 45, 447-47858.