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Photo of Shingleton, Alexander

Alexander Shingleton, PhD


Biological Sciences


Building & Room:

SEL 4283


950 S. Halsted St.

Office Phone:

(312) 996-3230


Keywords: Evolution, Development, Physiology, Eco-Evo-Devo, Gene-Environment Interactions, Modeling, Drosophila, Morphology, Allometry, Plasticity

Research Summary

The goal of my research is to understand how the environment influences development to regulate morphology and how this regulation evolves.

A major challenge in evolutionary biology is explaining how variation in genotype (the genetic makeup of an individual) generates variation in phenotype (the physical characteristics of an individual), which natural selection can then act upon. The integration of evolutionary with developmental biology ­– “Evo-Devo” – has revealed how heritable differences in genes expression during development can alter phenotype. However, this is only half the story. Phenotype is also influenced by the environment. The next step is therefore to understand how the environment influences the developmental process by which genotype becomes phenotype, integrating evo-devo with physiology – “Eco-Evo-Devo”. Gene-environment interactions mold the phenotypes of all living things and uncovering the mechanism of these interactions is fundamental to understanding phenotypic variation, both adaptive and maladaptive.

Research in my lab addresses a number of different aspects of gene-environment interactions, largely focusing on the environmental regulation of body and trait size, and how this regulation evolves. I particular, we are interested in why the same environmental factor has different size-effects on different body parts. For example, in humans, changes in nutrition during development have a substantial effect on overall body size, but a very small effect on brain size. A consequence of this is that small malnourished adults have proportionally larger heads than large well-fed ones. We study similar changes in body proportion with nutrition, but using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. We hope that by understanding how the body proportion is regulated by both genes and the environment, we can understand how body proportion evolves.

Because gene-environment interactions involve dialogue among multiple levels of biological organization our research is correspondingly integrative, synthesizing multiple disciplines, from molecular and developmental genetics to physiology, bioinformatics and evolutionary biology. We also use mathematical modeling to better understand the developmental processes that we are studying and how they might evolve.

Selected Publications

Representative Publications  (Complete list of publications on Google Scholar)

Dreyer, A.P., Singleton, A.W. 2019. Insulin-insentivity of male genitalia maintains reproductive success in Drosophila. Royal Society. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0057.

McDonald, J.M.C., Ghosh, S.M., Gascoigne, S.J.L., and Shingleton, A.W. 2018. Plasticity Through Canalization: The Contrasting Effect of Temperature on Trait Size and Growth in Drosophila. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology 6(156). doi: 10.3389/fcell.2018.00156.

Shingleton , A.W., Frankino, W.A. 2018. The (ongoing) problem of relative growth. Current Opinion in Insect Science. 25. 9-19

Shingleton, A.W., Masandika, J. R., Thorsen, L.S., Zhu, Y., Mirth, C.K. 2017. The sex-specific effects of diet quality versus quantity on size and shape in Drosophila melanogaster. Royal Society Open Science. 4: 170375.

Gokhale, R.H., Hayashi, T., Mirque, C.D., Shingleton, A.W. 2016. Intra-organ growth coordination in Drosophila is mediated by systemic ecdysone signaling. Developmental Biology418: 135-145.

Dreyer, A.P., Saleh Ziabari, O., Swanson, E.M., Chawla, A., Frankino, W.A., Shingleton, A.W. 2016. Cryptic individual scaling relationships and the evolution of morphological scaling. Evolution . 70: 1703-1706.

Harrison, J.F., Shingleton, A.W., Callier, V. 2015. Stunted by developing in hypoxia: Linking comparative and model organism studies. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 88: 455-70.

Oliveira, M.M., Shingleton, A.W., Mirth, C.K. 2014. Tissue pattern is not tightly coordinated with whole body development. PLoS Genetics. 10(6): e1004408

Mirth, C.K., Tang, H., Makohon-Moore, S., Salhadar, S., Gokhale, R.H., Riddiford, L.M., Shingleton, A.W., 2014. Juvenile hormone regulates body size and perturbs insulin-signaling in Drosophila. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1313058111

Ghosh, S.M., Testa, N.D., Shingleton, A.W. 2013. Temperature Size Rule is mediated by thermal plasticity of critical size in Drosophila melanogaster. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London. Series B, 280, no 1760.


PhD, Clare College, University of Cambridge

BA, St. Peter’s College, University of Oxford