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Molly E Cummings

Department of Integrative Biology

Evolution of Conspicuous Signals. Mechanisms of Crypsis. Neural Mechanisms of Mate Choice.

Phone: 512-232-6243

Office Location
PAT 502

Postal Address
AUSTIN, TX 78712

B.A., Human Biology, Stanford University (1990)
Post-Graduate Diploma in Marine Science, James Cook University, Australia (1993)
Ph.D., Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara (2001)

Research Summary:

My research focuses on the external and internal mechanisms that drive biodiversity in animal communication traits. I combine environmental measures, behavioral experiments in the lab, and molecular approaches to achieve an integrative understanding of the sources and targets of selection for communication trait evolution. I conduct research in 3 major areas: neural mechanisms of mate choice, polarization camouflage and communication, and the evolution of conspicuous signals.

Cummings M.E. & Crothers L.R. 2013. Interacting selection diversifies warning signals in a polytypic frog: an examination with the strawberry poison frog. Evolutionary Ecology 27: 693-710.

Brady P., Travis K., Maginnis T. & Cummings M.E. 2013. The polaro-cryptic mirror: a biological adaptation for open-ocean camouflage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110: 9764-9769. 

Crothers L.C. & Cummings M.E. 2013. Warning signal brightness variation: sexual selection may work under the radar of natural selection in populations of a polytypic poison frog. The Ameican Naturalist 181(5): E116-E124. doi: 10.1086/670010.

Twomey E., Yeager J., Brown J.L., Morales V., Cummings M.E. & Summers K. 2013. Phenotypic and genetic divergence among poison frog populations. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55443. 

Cummings M.E. 2012. Looking for sexual selection in the female brain. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 367:2348-2356.

Ramsey M.E., Maginnis T.L., Wong R.Y., Brock C. & Cummings M.E. 2012. Identifying context-specific gene profiles of social, reproductive and mate preference behavior in a fish species with female mate choice. Frontiers in Neurogenomics 6:62. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00062

Lynch K.S., Ramsey M.E. & Cummings M.E. 2012. The mate choice brain: comparing gene profiles between female choice and male coercive poeciliids. Genes, Brain and Behavior 11:222-229.

Maan M.E. & Cummings M.E. 2012. Poison frog colors are honest signals of toxicity- particularly for bird predators. The American Naturalist Vol. 179, No. 1, pp. E1-E14. 

Wong R.Y., Ramsey M.E. & Cummings M.E. 2012. Localizing brain regions associated with female mate preference behavior in a swordtail. PLoS ONE 7(11) e50355. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050355 (click for link to paper).

Veilleux C.C., Cummings M.E. 2012. Nocturnal light environments and species ecology: implications for nocturnal color vision in forests. Journal of Experimental Biology 215:4085-4096. 

Yeager J., Brown J.L., Morales V., Cummings M.E. & Summers K. 2012. Testing for selection on color and pattern in a mimetic radiation. Current Zoology 58(4):668-676. 

You Y., Tonizzo A., Gilersonn A.A., Cummings M.E., Brady P., Sullivan J M., Twardowski M.S., Dierssen H.M. Ahmed S.A., & Kattawar G.W. 2011. Measurements and simulations of polarization states of underwater light in clear oceanic waters. Applied Optics 50: 4873-4893. 

Wong R.Y, So P., & Cummings M.E. 2011. How female size and male displays influence mate preference in a swordtail. Animal Behaviour 82: 691-697. 

Ramsey M.E., Wong R.Y. & Cummings M.E. 2011. Estradiol, reproductive cycle and preference behavior in a northern swordtail. General and Comparative Endocrinol 170: 381-390. 

Richards-Zawacki C.L. & Cummings M.E. 2011. Intraspecific reproductive character displacement in a polymorphic poison dart frog, Dendrobates pumilio. Evolution 65: 259-267. 

Crothers L., Gering E. & Cummings, M.E. 2011. Aposematic signal variation predicts male-male interactions in a polymorphic poison frog. Evolution 65: 599-605. 

Brady P. & Cummings M.E. 2010. Differential Response to Circularly Polarized Light by the
Jewel Scarab Beetle Chrysina gloriosa. The American Naturalist 175(5): 614-620. 

Brown J.L., Maan M.E., Cummings M.E., & Summers K. 2010. Evidence for selection on coloration in a Panamanian poison frog: a coalescent-based approach. Journal of Biogeography 37: 891-901. 

Maan M.E. & Cummings M.E. 2009. Sexual dimorphism and directional sexual selection on aposematic signals in a poison frog. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 19072-19077. 

Cummings M.E. & Gelineau-Kattner R. 2009. The energetic costs of alternative male reproductive strategies in Xiphophorus nigrensis. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 195: 935-46. 

Cummings M.E., Larkins-Ford J., Reilly C.R.L., Wong R., Ramsey M.R., & Hofmann H.A. 2008. Sexual and social stimuli elicit rapid and contrasting genomic responses. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 275: 393-402. 

Maan M.E. & Cummings M.E. 2008. Female preferences for aposematic signal components in a polymorphic poison frog. Evolution 62-9: 2334-2345. 

Cummings M.E., Bernal X.E., Reynaga R., Rand A.S., & Ryan M.J. 2008. Visual sensitivity to conspicuous male cue varies by reproductive state in Physalaemus pustulosus females. Journal of Experimental Biology 211: 1203-1210. 

Cummings M.E., Jordao J.M., Cronin T.W., & Oliveira R.F. 2008. Visual ecology of the fiddler crab, Uca tangeri: effects of sex, viewer and background on conspicuousness. Animal Behaviour 75: 175-188. 

Cummings M.E. 2007. Sensory trade-offs predicts signal divergence in surfperch. Evolution 61 (3): 530-545. 

Cummings M.E.& Johnsen S. 2007. Light, Effects of. In: Encyclopedia of Tidepools and Rocky Shores. Denny, M., Gaines, S. (Eds). University of California Press p325-329.

Darst CR. & Cummings M.E. 2006.Predator learning favors mimicry of a less toxic model in poison frogs. Nature 440: 208-211. 

Darst C.R., Cummings M.E. & Cannatella D.C. 2006.A mechanism for diversity in warning signals: conspicuousness versus toxicity in poison frogs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103: 5852-5857. 

Cummings M.E. & Mollaghan D.M. 2006.Repeatability and consistency of female preference behaviours in a northern swordtail, Xiphophorus nigrensis. Animal Behaviour 72: 217-224. [PDF]Cummings M.E., Garcia de Leon F.J., Mollaghan D.M. & Ryan M.J. 2006.Is UV ornamentation an amplifier in swordtails? Zebrafish 3:91-100. 

Grether G.G., Cummings M.E.& Hudon J. 2005.Countergradient variation in the sexual coloration of guppies (Poecilia reticulata): droserpterin synthesis balances carotenoid availability. Evolution 59: 175-188 

Ryan M.J. & Cummings M.E.2005.Animal signals and the overlooked costs of efficacy. Evolution 59: 1160-1161 

Cummings M.E. 2004.Modelling divergence in luminance and chromatic detectionperformances across measured divergence in surfperch (Embiotocidae) habitats. Vision Research 44:1127-1145. 

Cummings M.E., Rosenthal G.G. & Ryan M.J. 2003.A private ultraviolet channel in visual communication. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 270: 897-904.

Cummings M.E. & Zimmerman R.C. 2003. Light harvesting and the package effect in the seagrasses Thalassia testudinum Konig and Zostera marina L.: Optical constraints on photoacclimation. Aquatic Botany 75: 264-274. 

Cummings M.E. & Partridge J.C. 2001. Visual pigments and optical habitats of surfperch (Embiotocidae) in the California kelp forest. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 187: 875-889. 

Partridge J.C. & Cummings M.E. 1999. Adaptation of visual pigments to the aquatic environment. In: Adaptive Mechanisms in the Ecology of Vision. Archer, S.N., Damgoz, M.B.A., Loew, E.R., Partridge, J.C., Valerga S. (Eds) Kluwer Academic Publishers. Great Britain. Pp. 251-283.