Peter John Mayhew

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Dr. Peter John Mayhew

(Former)

Research interests

I'm an evolutionary ecologist with a love of insects, whose main work has been on life history evolution and macroevolution, often on parasitic Hymenoptera. I've also worked in biological control, palaeontology, phylogenetics, community and conservation ecology. Current work includes how to exploit the large amount of published life history information in insects to understand trait co-variation, and how this varies with ecology and between taxonomic groups; how community structure and composition in parasitic wasps is predicted by environmental gradients in tropical rainforests and the implications for conservation; how song traits in Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) varies phylogenetically and with ecology, and how these associations can be used to automatically identify songs in the field; and how to conserve England's rarest moth, the Dark Bordered Beauty.

 

Research interests

Evolution of insect diversity

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As far as we know, the insects are the most species rich class of organisms. There is arguably no better resource to learn about the origins of biodiversity and phenotypic diversity. Our work uses fossil, phjylogenetic and trait information to ask what the proximate and ultimate drivers of this diversity might have been, and which theories best explain it. 

Research interests

Habitat determinants of parasitoid diversity

Little known and cryptic taxa make up most of the world's biodiversity, but conservation of biodiversity is done almost entirely in ignorance of them. One such group is the parasitic wasps which are very species rich, and regulate herbivore numbers,  but which are almost entirely ignord by conservationists. One way to provide some protection is to conserve the habitats in which they are most diverse, but we have very little understanding of this. Our work in the UK and in Atlantic forest in Brazil (shown in the photo) aims to identify the properties of habitats which are very rich in wasps to use as proxies for the their conservation, and also to help implement biodiverse agroecosystems which might serve to regulate pest numbers. 

Research interests

Conservation of the Dark Bordered Beauty moth

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The Dark Bordered Beauty is England's rarest moth, with the last known population occurring at Strensall Common near York. The moth has been rare ever since moths were first collected and catalogued in the UK, with the York population being visited by lepidopterists since at least 1827. The York population has slowly contracted in range due to habitat destruction, but in 2010 annual monitoring showed a sharp decline in the Strensall population that continued until 2015, nearly resulting in its extinction at the site, and hence nationally. Our research has shown that the habitat has deteriorated because of the decline in density and size of the caterpillar foodplant, Creeping Willow. We are now monitoring the effectiveness of conservation measures designed to improve the condition and numbers of this plant. In addition, we have been researching historical information on this moth to better understand its significance to the local people and the nation, and how it got to be as rare and significant as it is.