Daniel Warner

Assistant Professor
Campbell Hall 100
(205) 934-9674

Research and Teaching Interests: Developmental Plasticity, Environmental Sex Determination, Evolutionary Ecology, Herpetology, Parental Effects, Phenotypic Selection

Daniel Warner. Office Hours: By appointment only

  • BS, Iowa State University, Animal Ecology
  • MS, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • PhD, University of Sydney

Dr. Warner is a native of Chicago. He studied animal ecology and the reproductive and developmental biology of lizards in the Appalachian Mountains. He then worked as a fisheries biologist at the Florida Marine Research Institute where he studied population biology of crustaceans in Tampa Bay, Florida. He conducted his PhD research on the ecology and evolution of temperature-dependent sex determination in an Australian lizard. Warner was a postdoctoral researcher at Iowa State University where he studied developmental plasticity and maternal effects in turtles and lizards. He has published over 50 papers in international journals, two book chapters, and several popular science articles. He has received multiple awards for his research, and was recently awarded the 2011 Young Investigators Prize from the American Society of Naturalists and the 2014 George A. Bartholomew Award from the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Dr. Warner's research at UAB seeks to understand the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape organismal responses to their environments across all life-history stages (from embryo to adult). More specifically, his research focuses on how biotic and abiotic factors affect parental investment in reproduction, and the evolutionary consequences of how parental investment and developmental environments shape offspring traits. Warner’s research integrates aspects of ecology, physiology, genetics, and behavior, and combines lab and field experiments to provide comprehensive tests of adaptive evolution. He has a very active laboratory of graduate and undergraduate students working a wide range of projects (warnerlab.weebly.com).

CV: Download PDF

The brown anole lizard (Anolis sagrei) is our primary study model that we use to address these topics.The brown anole lizard (Anolis sagrei) is our primary study model that we use to address these topics.Research in the Warner Lab examines interactions between organisms and their environments at several different levels of organization and across multiple life-history stages (from embryos to adults). By quantifying relationships between phenotypes and fitness, we aim to understand how natural selection has shaped phenotypic variation. We use a variety of techniques (e.g., genotyping, radio-immunoassays, stable isotopes, mark-recapture experiments) and combine field and lab studies to gain a comprehensive understanding of adaptive evolution. Our research focuses on reptiles because these organisms have several characteristics that make them excellent models for addressing fundamental questions in evolutionary ecology.

Developmental plasticity and parental effects
Plastic responses of embryos to developmental conditions are nearly ubiquitous throughout life. Decades of research demonstrate that embryonic environments influence developmental patterns and offspring phenotypes in ways that impact fitness. Our research on this topic integrates lab studies of egg physiological ecology with observational and experimental studies in the field to understand how selection has shaped patterns of developmental plasticity. For example, we have shown that temperature and moisture conditions during egg incubation affects offspring body via their influence on developmental rate or yolk metabolism. These phenotypic effects, in turn, influence individual survival and/or reproductive success later in life.

Six of the study islands where we are studying natural populations of lizards (Image from GoogleEarth).Six of the study islands where we are studying natural populations of lizards (Image from GoogleEarth).Parental effects occur when the phenotype or environment of the parents (typically the mother) influence offspring phenotypes independent of, or interacting with, inherited genes. In other words, parental effects are a form of developmental plasticity that spans generations. Our research addresses how maternal environments (e.g., nutrition, social conditions, age) influence patterns of reproductive investment, and in turn, how investment impacts offspring phenotypes and fitness. We also evaluate the fitness consequences of maternal nest-site choice, which is a behavioral maternal effect that determines the environment that embryos experience during development.

Phenotypic selection in natural populations
The potential for traits to evolve in response to natural selection depends largely on the strength, form and consistency of selection in nature. To quantify phenotypic selection in the wild, we have initiated a large-scale cross-generational study on several populations of brown anole lizards located on islands in Florida's Intracoastal Waterway. These islands provide an outstanding opportunity to assess spatial variation in selection and to assess the temporal consistency of phenotypic selection across generations. We have already manipulated population sex ratios on several islands to assess the effects of this important demographic feature on the strength and form of phenotypic selection. To complement our lab-based studies, we have long-term plans to use these "replicated" islands to address:
  1. critical predictions in sex-ratio theory,
  2. adaptation to variable developmental environments, and
  3. trans-generational effects of the maternal environment in the wild.
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Seminar in Ecology (Ecology and Evolution of Developmental Plasticity)
  • David Delaney, thesis research: “Behavioral interactions between adult and juvenile brown anoles”
  • Andrew Buckelew, thesis research: “Nutritionally-mediated maternal effects in the brown anole”
  • Corey Cates, thesis research: “Effects of incubation moisture on phenotypes and fitness of lizards”
  • Phillip Pearson, thesis: “Spatial and temporal variation in the thermal environment of lizard nests, and its effect offspring development”
  • Warner DA, "Fitness consequences of maternal and embryonic responses to environmenal variation: Using reptiles as models for studies of developmental plasticity," Integrative and Comparative Biology (forthcoming, 2014).
  • Warner DA, Addis E, Du WG, Wibbels T, Janzen FJ, "Exogenous application of estradiol to eggs unexpectedly induces male development in two turtle species with temperature-dependent sex determination," General and Comparative Endocrinology (forthcoming, 2014).
  • Warner DA, Lovern MB, "Maternal environments affect offspring viability via an indirect effect of yolk investment on offspring size," Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 87 (2014): 276-87.
  • Warner DA, Uller T, Shine R, "Transgenerational sex determination: the embryonic environment experienced by a male affects offspring sex ratio," Scientific Reports 3 (2013): 2709.
  • Warner DA, Kelly CD, Lovern MB, "Experience affects mating behavior, but does not impact parental reproductive allocation in a lizard," Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67 (2013): 973-83.
  • Warner DA, Mitchell TS, "Does maternal oviposition site influence offspring dispersal to suitable habitat?," Oecologia 172 (2013): 679-88.
  • Warner DA, Moody MA, Telemeco RS, Kolbe JJ, "Egg environments strongly impact embryonic development, but have minimal consequences for hatchling phenotypes in an invasive lizard," Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 105 (2012): 25-41.
  • Warner DA, Shine R, "Interactions among thermal parameters determine offspring sex under temperature-dependent sex determination," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 278 (2011): 256-65.
  • Warner DA, Shine R, "The adaptive significance of temperature-dependent sex determination in a reptile," Nature 451 (2008): 566-68.
  • George A. Bartholomew Award, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (2014)
  • Young Investigator’s Prize, American Society of Naturalists (2011)
  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
  • Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
  • Herpetologists’ League