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 as a critical life history transition point, focusing on the ability of animals to facultatively alter when they leave the egg in response to changing risks to and opportunities for embryos and larvae. 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 red-eyed treefrogs, hourglass treefrogs, and glassfrogs, representing three lineages of frogs that independently evolved arboreal eggs and retained aquatic tadpoles.  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 416/616 Herpetology
  • BI 581/582 Seminar in Biology
  • WS101 Gender and Sexuality I: An Interdisciplinary Introduction

Selected Publications

  • Touchon JC, McCoy MW, Landberg T, Vonesh JR, Warkentin KM (2015) Putting µ/g in a new light: plasticity in life-history switch points reflects fine-scale adaptive responses. Ecology. In Press.
  • Willink B, Palmer MS, Landberg T, Vonesh JR, Warkentin KM (2014) Environmental context shapes immediate and cumulative costs of risk-induced early hatching. Evolutionary Ecology. 28: 103-116.
  • 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.
  • 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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