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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
The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Sciences
2415 Speedway
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.