Marlene Zuk is an evolutionary biologist studying the evolution of behavior, particularly sexual selection and communication. She helped develop the idea that parasites and pathogens are instrumental in the evolution of sexual differences, and has examined how behavior affects the rate of evolution. She grew up in Los Angeles, California, and was an undergraduate at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s College of Creative Studies. After receiving her PhD from the University of Michigan, she did postdoctoral work at the University of New Mexico before joining the faculty at the University of California, Riverside. In 2012 she joined the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota, where she is also the Associate Dean for Faculty in the College of Biological Sciences. In addition to her academic work, she has written several books for general audiences, including Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet and How We Live.

Research Interests

Marlene Zuk's laboratory studies the evolution of behavior in the wild, mainly using insects. She is broadly interested in how animal signals evolve, and how they are used in sexual selection. She and her colleagues have been particularly interested in how sexual signals evolve in the face of conflicting selection pressures, using a cricket that was introduced to Hawaii. The crickets there are parasitized by a fly attracted to the same song used by females to find their mates. In some populations, a wing mutation rendering males unable to call spread over the course of just a few years, a rapid evolutionary event that illustrates the ways that behavior can moderate the rate of evolution.

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Primary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology

Secondary Section

Section 51: Anthropology