Dr Steven Le Comber
Location: Room 5.03c, Fogg building
Phone: +44 (0)20 7882 3046
My work covers a wide range of subjects within evolutionary biology, including mathematical and computer models of molecular evolution and studies of spatial patterns in biology, notably in epidemiology and invasive species biology.
My research on molecular evolution is principally in the field of genetic code evolution and polyploidy. In a recent paper in BMC Evolutionary biology, I pointed out for the first time an apparently deleterious feature of the universal genetic code: the occurrence of multiple stop codons. The paper proposed and found evidence for a compensatory benefit for this otherwise puzzling feature of the code.
In another paper, in New Phytologist, I used computer simulations to study the evolution of newly formed autopolyploids. I showed that the evolution of pairing genes is not essential for the establishment of disomic inheritance, since genetic drift alone is sufficient to explain the transition from polysomic to disomic inheritance.
My work on the mathematics of spatial patterns spans two main areas. In the first of these, I have pioneered the introduction of geographic profiling – a statistical technique originally developed in criminology – to biology.
Working with the technique's inventor, Prof Kim Rossmo (Texas State), I showed in a paper in the Journal of Theoretical Biology how it could be adapted to study patterns of animal movement. Work in this area is ongoing; I am currently using geographic profiling to study biological invasions (with PhD student Mark Stevenson) and epidemiological data (with Prof John Beier, University of Miami). In the second of these areas, working with Dr Chris Faulkes (QMUL) and Prof Nigel Bennett (University of Pretoria), I use fractal dimension to quantify burrow architecture in fossorial mammals.
Previously, I have studied alternative male mating tactics in the three-spined stickleback, patterns of morphological and molecular evolution in European vespertilionid bats (with Dr David Polly of Indiana University) and mate choice in the greater horseshoe bat (with Steve Rossiter and Chris Faulkes (both QMUL)).