Faculty Profiles

Karen Warkentin

Karen Warkentin

Associate Professor of Biology

PhD, University of Texas at Austin, 1998
Areas of interest: phenotypic plasticity; the integration of ecology, development, behavior, physiology, and evolution; embryos as organisms; life history switch points; substrate vibration as an information channel; herpetology; tropical biology; sex, gender and sexuality
(617) 358-2385

Current Research

Research in my laboratory examines developing organisms in an ecological context. We study hatching and metamorphosis as critical life history transitions, focusing on the ability of animals to facultatively alter these switch points in response to changing risks and opportunities in each life stage. Our research integrates ideas and techniques from ecology, behavior, and physiology, developmental and evolutionary biology, and mechanical engineering.

Our study organisms are amphibians and their enemies. In the neotropics we study leaf-breeding treefrogs, with arboreal eggs and aquatic tadpoles. Our focal species, the red-eyed treefrog, hatches prematurely in response to egg stage risks and shifts metamorphosis in response to predators of both tadpoles and froglets. Our work addresses mechanisms of plasticity, its evolution, and the consequences of different plastic ‘choices’ in different environments. In New England, we study vernal pool amphibians, focusing on pathogen-induced early hatching and its consequences.

Courses Taught

  • BI 506 Phenotypic Plasticity
  • BI 581/582 Seminar in Biology
  • CC 106 Biodiversity
  • WS 101 Gender and Sexuality: An Interdisciplinary Introduction

Selected Publications

  • Touchon JC, Jiménez RR, Abinette SH, Vonesh JR, Warkentin, KM (2013) Behavioral plasticity mitigates risk across environments and predators during anuran metamorphosis. Oecologia. Early Online DOI 10.1007/s00442-013-2714-8
  • Touchon JC, McCoy MW, Vonesh JR, Warkentin KM (2013) Effects of hatching plasticity carry over through metamorphosis in red-eyed treefrogs. Ecology 94, 850-860.
  • Gomez-Mestre I, Warkentin KM (2013) Risk-induced hatching timing shows low heritability and evolves independently of spontaneous hatching in red-eyed treefrogs. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 26, 1079-1089.
  • Warkentin KM (2011) Environmentally cued hatching across taxa: Embryos respond to risk and opportunity. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51, 14-25.
  • Warkentin KM (2011) Plasticity of hatching in amphibians: Evolution, trade-offs, cues and mechanisms. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51, 111-127.
  • Caldwell MS, Johnston GR, McDaniel JG, Warkentin KM (2010) Vibrational signaling in the agonistic interactions of red-eyed treefrogs. Current Biology 20, 1012-1017.
  • Touchon JC, Warkentin KM (2008) Reproductive mode plasticity: aquatic and terrestrial oviposition in a treefrog. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 105: 7495-7499.
  • Gomez-Mestre I, Wiens JJ, Warkentin KM (2008) Evolution of adaptive plasticity: risk-sensitive hatching in neotropical leaf-breeding treefrogs (Agalychnis: Hylidae). Ecological Monographs 21: 791-800.

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