Alejandro Rios Villamil


PhD Candidate

Thesis title

Diet Sexual Conflict and the Evolution of Lifespan in the Sexes

Research Project

Diet affects almost every aspect of an organism’s life cycle. However, these effects often differ between the sexes, as males and females might have non-overlapping nutritional requirements. A major focus of nutrition studies has been the effect of diet quality and quantity on lifespan and ageing. Years of experimental dietary manipulations on a diversity of species have shown that dietary restriction extends lifespan and influences the occurrence of ageing-related diseases – a clear sign that nutrition has a strong effect on longevity and. Understandably, most dietary manipulation studies have examined immediate consequences of altering diet in a single or a couple of generations. However, an organism’s response to environmental variability, such as a change in diet, strongly depends on its evolutionary history.

To date, the process of dietary adaptation has been relatively unexplored, especially with regards to differences between the sexes. Using evolutionary concepts to understand the process of ageing and examining possible mechanisms that underlie it will provide a more integrative understanding of ageing. Hence, during my candidature I will study dietary adaptation and how it influences lifespan and ageing in the sexes, and look into possible mechanisms behind these processes.

In my project I will use decorated cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus) populations that have been evolving on 5 artificial diets for over 30 generations to measure differences in lifespan and ageing between dietary lines and also between males and females. I will then quantify differences in metabolic rates, oxidative stress, reproductive efforts and microbiome compositions, as these are all suitable candidates to explain and link the processes of dietary adaptation and ageing.

Ultimately, this project will contribute to understanding how organisms adapt to diet changes in evolutionary time and help to explore the role of several mechanisms in the process of dietary adaptation.


Letendre C, Rios-Villamil A, Williams A, Rapkin J, Sakaluk SK, House CM, Hunt J, (2022) 'Evolution of immune function in response to dietary macronutrients in male and female decorated crickets', Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol.35, no.11, pp 1465-1474

Delbón N, Castello LV, Rios-Villamil A, Cosa MT, Stiefkens L, (2021) 'Surviving in semi-arid environments: Functional coordination and trade-offsin shrubs from Argentina', IAWA Journal,  vol.42, no.2, pp 172-190

Research Supervisors

Professor John Hunt, Dr. Clarissa House, Dr. Alexie Papanicolaou