Jana Riederer

Social determinants of evolvability

My project:
Evolvability, the capability of a biological system to undergo adaptive evolution, is of increasing interest in various fields within evolutionary biology. However, so far most attention as concentrated on “genetic determinants” of evolvability. In my PhD, I therefore aim to open a new chapter of evolvability research, by focusing on “social determinants”: How do aspects of the social system of a biological system affects its ability to evolve? In doing so, I explore topics such as: the impact of sexual selection on the evolution of adaptive response mechanisms in changing environments; the evolution of cooperative strategies in complex fitness landscapes; or the role of sexual selection in shaping the Anolis lizard radiation. I hope to address my questions using both theoretical and through empirical approaches, combining individual based simulations and fieldwork on Anolis lizards.

My interests:
I have a broad interest in the various factors that generate, maintain, and shape variation. I like exploring anything from genetic aspects of mutation rates to evolution in behavioural ecology – as long as it concerns evolvability & evolutionary trajectories, I’m in! I am also especially intrigued by the evolution and evolutionary impact of genotype-phenotype maps, phenotypic plasticity, sexual selection, and the role of social systems in shaping evolution. On the methodological side, I am particularly interested in interdisciplinary approaches and specifically in linking theoretical and empirical research, as this plays a major role in my PhD project.


  • Riederer, J. M., Tiso, S., van Eldijk, T. J., & Weissing, F. J. (2022). Capturing the facets of evolvability in a mechanistic framework. Trends in Ecology & Evolution.
  • Visser, B., Alborn, H. T., Rondeaux, S., Haillot, M., Hance, T., Rebar, D., Riederer, J. M., Tiso, S., van Eldijk, T. J., Weissing, F. J. & Nieberding, C. M. (2021). Phenotypic plasticity explains apparent reverse evolution of fat synthesis in parasitic wasps. Scientific reports, 11(1), 1-13.
  • Dixit, T., Riederer, J. M., Quek, S., Belford, K., de Wand, T. T., Sicat, R., & Jiggins, C. D. (2020). Plasticity in flower size as an adaptation to variation in pollinator specificity. Ecol. Entom, 45, 1367-1372.