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Faculty Profile

Tony FrankinoTony Frankino

Associate Professor
Department of Biology and Biochemistry

Office: SR2 321B
Contact: - (713) 743-2173

Education: Ph.D., Indiana University, Bloomington, 2000


A central goal of evolutionary biology is to understand the relative importance of internal proximate (genetic, physiological, developmental) mechanisms and external selective forces in the evolution of complex, multivariate phenotypes. In field and laboratory studies, I use naturally occurring and experimentally produced extreme phenotypic variants to elucidate the relationships among variation in genotype, physiology, ecological performance, and fitness. My goal is to understand how both internal proximate mechanisms and external selection influence the evolution of complex phenotypes that are composed of functionally and developmentally integrated traits. Current research focuses on the evolution of insect wing shape, absolute wing size, and the allometric relationships between the wings and other traits as focal systems. Earlier work has focused on the evolution of other complex life history phenotypes, including alternative morphs in larval amphibians and alternative reproductive morphs in lizards.

My research is often collaborative and necessarily integrative, combining behavioral, comparative, developmental genetic, genomic, quantitative genetic, phenotypic engineering, and other experimental approaches. My approach has four broad components: (1) the identification of pattern in morphological evolution through comparative analysis of multivariate descriptors, (2) the experimental creation of new morphological variation through artificial selection or phenotypic engineering to test for internal constraints and bias in phenotype evolution, (3) investigation of the proximate (genetic, physiological) basis of typical and novel phenotype development, and (4) the use of experimentally produced novel phenotypic variation to describe the relationships between variation in morphology, ecological performance, and fitness. Ultimately, my goal is to explain patterns of morphological diversity through the relative contributions of internal factors and external selection. Details can be found on my webpage.

  • Shingleton, A., W. A. Frankino, T. Flatt, F. Nijhout, and D. Emlen. 2007. Size and Shape: The regulation of static allometry in insects. BioEssays 29:536-548.
  • Frankino, W. A., B. J., Zwaan, D. L. Stern, and P. M. Brakefield. 2005. Natural selection and developmental constraints in the evolution of allometries. Science 307:718-720.
  • Frankino, W. A., R. A. Raff. 2004. Evolutionary importance and pattern of phenotypic plasticity: Insights gained from development. Pp 64-81 in: Phenotypic Plasticity, Functional and Conceptual Approaches. T. J. DeWitt and S. M. Scheiner, eds. Oxford University Press.
  • Frankino, W. A., and D. Pfennig. 2001. Condition-dependent expression of trophic polyphenism: effects of individual size and competitive ability. Evolutionary Ecology Research 3:939-951.