UC College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

UC College of Arts & Sciences

Biological Sciences

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Michal Polak

Title: Professor
Office: 820A Rieveschl Hall
Tel: 513-556-9736
Email: michal.polak@uc.edu

SBBE, Behavior, Sexual Selection; Sperm Competition; Insect Host-Parasite Biology; Evolutionary Ecology

Education

  • PhD, Arizona State University, 1995.
  • MS, University of Toronto, 1992.

Research Information

Research Interests

Wecome to the Polak Lab at the University of Cincinnati!

Our research focuses on Sexual Selection and Host-Parasite Evolutionary Ecology.

Sexual Selection
Why do females pay attention to features of male ornaments, such as their size and symmetry? Our research is testing models of male signaling of genetic quality that account for the evolution of female choice and of male ornamental traits, focusing on polygynous mating systems of insects.

The lab holds an NSF grant exploring how post-copulatory sexual selection—sperm competition and cryptic female choice—drives the evolution of male sexual ornaments in fruit flies. This effort leverages the use of our laser surgical device for the ultra-precise manipulation of microscopic traits of insects.

A growing focus of the lab examines the relationship between male nutrition and reproductive health. A current collaboration encompasses researchers from UC, The University of Western Australia and The University of Sydney (The Charles Perkins Center). It is using Drosophila as a model to define links between male nutrient intake, body reserves (e.g., body fat, protein stores), and embryo health and viability. This research is broadening our knowledge of the role of paternal transmission of environmental effects to fertility and offspring performance that may extend into adult life.

Host-Parasite Interactions/Nutritional Immunology
We study the mechanisms of resistance against parasites, focusing on host behavioral immunity in insects. Parasites are ubiquitous in the environment, and new diseases are emerging continuously, yet it remains a major challenge to predict the course of host evolution in response to parasite pressure. A goal of our research is to measure and characterize the physiological and genetic (e.g., transcriptional) bases of fitness costs of resistance. This is an understudied area of parasitological research, yet essential for understanding the maintenance of genetic polymorphisms underlying resistance and for predicting the course of evolutionary change in resistance looking forward. 

Some current lab briefs/activities:
1. The Polak/Benoit labs received funding this year from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support a 4-year collaborative project on host-parasite biology. The work uniquely bridges studies of host molecular, metabolomic, and physiological processes, with wholeorganism fitness functions, to better understand the mechanisms of resistance evolution in natural populations.
2.  Lauren Titus, a graduate student in the lab, with Margot Meredit and Ashley Moulton, undergraduate students, will be presenting research at the 2017 Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (MEEC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
3. Michal Polak recently took on a 3-year term as an Editor for the international journal, Animal Behaviour.
4. We were excited to host Eduardo Rodriguez Exposito, a visiting researcher from Sevilla, Spain, who received funding to conduct research with us over Fall Semester 2016. Eduardo trained on our lab's NSF-sponsored laser surgical system, and tested hypotheses about the function of complex genital traits in Drosophila kikkawai. Eduardo will be presenting this research at the meeting of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) to be held in the Netherlands in August 2017.

Research Support

  • (PI), Polak, Michal, Costs of Resistance in a Natural Host-Parasite System, National Science Foundation. (DEB-0345990-001), $326,018.00. 04/15/2004 to 03/31/2008.
  • (PI), Polak, Michal, Genetic Tradeoffs in Resistance to Natural Enemies, National Science Foundation. (DEB-0128999-001REU), $56,000.00. 04/15/2002 to 03/31/2004. Status: Closed.
  • (PI), Polak, Michal, Genetic Determinants of a Model Host Parasite System, National Science Foundation. (DEB-9996218-001 REU), $128,260.00. 12/31/1998 to 08/28/2002. Status: Closed.
  • (PI), Polak, Michal, Mechanisms of Secondary Sexual Trait Diversification, National Science Foundation. (DEB-1118599), $520,530.00. 10/01/2011 to 09/30/2015. Status: Active.
  • (PI), Benoit, Joshua; Polak, Michal, Costs of Parasite Resistance - An integrated study of underlying mechanisms, National Science Foundation. (DEB-1654417), $882,296.00. 05/01/2017 to 04/30/2021. Status: Awarded.

Publications

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Gray, L.J., Simpson, S.J., and Polak, M. 2015. Nutritional geometry reveals divergent patterns of condition dependence in male fitness components. In review.
  • Polak, M., Hooker, K.J., and Tyler, F. 2015. Consistent postitive co-variation between fluctuating asymmetry and sexual trait size: A challenge to the developmental-instability sexual selection hypothesis. Symmetry, 7: 976-993, doi:10.3390/sym7020976[Link]
  • Polak, M., Fanson, K.V.P., Taylor, P.W., & Yap, S. 2015. Differential genotypic effects of sexual trait size on offspring mating success and viability. Behavioral Ecology, published online Oct 21, 2015, doi: 10.1093/beheco/arv174.[Link]
  • Luong, L.T., Polak, M., Horn, C., and Penoni, L.R. 2015. Physical and physiological costs of ectoparasitic mites on host flight endurance. Ecological Entomology, 40: 518-524. DOI: 10.1111/een.12218[Link]
  • Le Vasseur-Viens, H., Polak, M., and Moehring, A. 2015. No evidence for external genital morphology affecting cryptic female choice and reproductive isolation in Drosophila. Evolution, 69: 1797-1807. DOI: 10.1111/evo.12685[Link]
  • Hurtado-Gonzales, J.L., Gallaher, W., Warner, A. & POLAK, M. 2014. Microscale laser surgery demonstrates the grasping function of the male sex combs in Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila bipectinata. Ethology 120: 1-12, DOI: 10.1111/eth.12316[Link]
  • Grieshop, K., & Polak, M. 2014. Evaluating the post-copulatory sexual selection hypothesis for genital evolution reveals evidence for pleiotropic harm exerted by the male genital spines of Drosophila ananassae. J. evol. Biol., 27: 2676-2686, DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12524[Link]
  • Polak, M. and Tomkins, J.L. 2013. Developmental selection against developmental instability: A direct demonstration. Biology Letters, 9: 20121081, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2012.1081[Link]
  • Grieshop, K. and Polak, M. 2012. The precopulatory function of male genital spines in Drosophila ananassae [Doleschall] (Diptera: Drosophilidae) revealed by laser surgery. Evolution 66: 2637-2645, DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01638.x[Link]
  • Hotzy, C., Polak, M., Rönn, J. and Arnqvist, G. 2012. Phenotypic engineering unveils the function of genital morphology. Current Biology, 22: 2258-2261.[Link]
  • Polak, M. and Tomkins, J.L., 2012. Developmental instability as phenodeviance in a secondary sexual trait increases with fitness-damaging thermal stress. J. evol. Biol., 25:277-287.[Link]
  • Kamimura, Y. and Polak, M. (2011). Does surgical manipulation of Drosophila intromittent organs affect insemination success? Proceedings of the Royal Society. Biological sciences. 278:815-16.
  • Rashed, A. & Polak, M. (2010). Differential condition dependence among morphological traits inferred from responses to heat stress is predicted by sexual selection theory. Biol J Linn Soc 101, 566-574.
  • Polak, M. & Rashed, A. (2010). Microscale laser surgery reveals adaptive function of intromittent male genitlia. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences, 277: 1371-1376.[Link]
  • Polak, M. & Simmons, L.W. (2009). Secondary sexual trait size reveals competitive fertilization success in Drosophila bipectinata Duda. Behavioral Ecology, 20, 753-760. [Link]
  • Matthew E.H., Cameron, G.N., Cramer, M.J., Polak, M., Uetz, G.W. (2009). Live animal radiography to measure developmental instability in populations of small mammals after a natural disaster. Ecological Indicators, 9, 883-891.
  • Rashed, A. & Polak, M. (2009). Does male secondary sexual trait size reveal fertilization efficiency in Australian Drosophila bipectinata Duda (Diptera: Drosophilidae)?. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 98, 406-413.
  • Uetz, G.W., Roberts, J.A., Wrinn, K.M., Polak, M., Cameron, G.N. (2009). Impact of a catastrophic natural disturbance on fluctuating asymmetry (FA) in a wolf spider. Ecoscience, 16, 379-386.
  • Polak, M. (2008). Synthesis: The Developmental Instability - Sexual Selection Hypothesis. A general evaluation and case study. Evolutionary Biology, 35, 208-230. [Link]
  • Rashed, Arash, Hamilton, Brooke, & Polak, Michal (2008). Ectoparasite resistance is correlated with reduced host egg hatch rate in the Drosophila-Macrocheles system. Environmental entomology, 37(5), 1099-104.
  • Luong, Lien T, & Polak, Michal (2007). Costs of resistance in the Drosophila-macrocheles system: a negative genetic correlation between ectoparasite resistance and reproduction. Evolution; international journal of organic evolution, 61(6), 1391-402.
  • Jaenike, John, Polak, Michal, Fiskin, Anna, Helou, Mada, & Minhas, Miranda (2007). Interspecific transmission of endosymbiotic Spiroplasma by mites. Biology letters, 3(1), 23-5.
  • Luong, L.T., Heath, B.D., Polak, M. (2007). Host inbreeding increases susceptibility to ectoparasitism. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 20, 79-86.
  • Polak, M. & Taylor, P.W. (2007). A primary role of developmental instability in sexual selection. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences, 274, 3133-3140. [Link]
  • Cooperman, A.F., Polak, M., Evans, C.S., & Taylor, P.W. (2007). Different sexual traits show covariation among genotypes: implications for sexual selection. Behavioral Ecology, 18, 311-317.
  • Luong, L.T. & Polak, M. (2007). Costs of resistance in the Drosophila-Macrocheles system: A negative genetic correlation between ectoparasite resistance and reproduction. Evolution, 61, 1391-1402.
  • Polak, M., Luong, L.T., & Starmer, W.T. (2007). Parasites physically block host copulation: A potent mechanism of parasite-mediated sexual selection. Behavioral Ecology, 18, 952-957.
  • Luong, L.T. & Polak, M. (2007). Environment-dependent tradeoffs between ectoparasite resistance and larval competitive ability in the Drosophila-Macrocheles system. Heredity, 99, 632-640.
  • Polak, Michal, & Taylor, Phillip W (2007). A primary role of developmental instability in sexual selection. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 274(1629), 3133-40.
  • Luong, L.T., Polak, M. (2007). Environment-dependent trade-offs between ectoparasite resistance and larval competitive ability in the Drosophila-Macrocheles system. Heredity, 99(6), 632-640.
  • Polak, Michal, & Starmer, William T (2005). Environmental origins of sexually selected variation and a critique of the fluctuating asymmetry-sexual selection hypothesis. Evolution; international journal of organic evolution, 59(3), 577-85.
  • McEvey, S.F. & Polak, M. (2005). Mycodrosophila (Diptera: Drosophilidae) of Fiji and Vanuatu with a description of nine new species. Fiji Arthropods II: Bishop Museum Occasional Papers, 84, 35-67.
  • Polak, M. & Starmer, W.T. (2005). Environmental origins of sexually selected variation and a critique of the fluctuating asymmetry-sexual selection hypothesis. Evolution, 59, 577-585.
  • Halliday, R.B., Walter, D.E., Polak, M. (2005). A new species of ?Gamasodes Oudemans from Australia (Acari: Parasitidae). Zootaxa, 1001, 17-30.
  • Polak, Michal, & Stillabower, Elizabeth M (2004). The relationship between genotype, developmental stability and mating performance: disentangling the epigenetic causes. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 271(1550), 1815-21.
  • Polak, Michal, Starmer, William T, & Wolf, Larry L (2004). Sexual selection for size and symmetry in a diversifying secondary sexual character in Drosophila bipectinata Duda (Diptera: Drosophilidae). Evolution; international journal of organic evolution, 58(3), 597-607.
  • Polak, Michal, Kroeger, David E, Cartwright, Iain L, & Ponce deLeon, Claudia (2004). Genotype-specific responses of fluctuating asymmetry and of preadult survival to the effects of lead and temperature stress in Drosophila melanogaster. Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987), 127(1), 145-55.
  • Polak, M., Kroeger, D.E., Cartwright, I.L., Ponce de Leon, C. (2004). Genotype-specific responses of fluctuating asymmetry and of preadult survival to lead and temperature stress in Drosophila melanogaster. Environmental Pollution, 127, 145-155.
  • Polak, M., Starmer, W.T., Wolf, L.L. (2004). Sexual selection for size and symmetry in a diversifying secondary sexual character in Drosophila bipectinata Duda (Diptera: Drosophilidae). Evolution, 58, 597-607.
  • Polak, M. & Stillabower, E.M. (2004). The relationship between genotype, developmental stability and mating performance: Disentangling the epigenetic causes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences, 271, 1815-1821.
  • Polak, M., Kroeger, D.E., Cartwright, I.L., Ponce deLeon, C. (2004). Genotype-specific responses of fluctuating asymmetry and of preadult survival to the effects of lead and temperature stress in Drosophila melanogaster. Environmental Pollution, 127, 145-155.
  • Polak, M., Starmer, W.T., Wolf, L.L. (2004). Sexual selection for size and symmetry in a diversifying secondary sexual character in Drosophila bipectinata duda (Diptera : Drosophilidae). Evolution, 58, 597-607.
  • Polak, M (2003). Heritability of resistance against ectoparasitism in the Drosophila-Macrocheles system. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 16, 74-82.
  • Starmer, W.T., Polak, M., Pitnick, S., McEvey S., Wolf, L.L., Barker, J.S.F (2003). Phylogenetic, geographical and temporal analysis of female reproductive tradeoff in Drosophila. Evolutionary Biology, 33, 139-171.
  • Starmer, W.T., Polak, M., Pitnick, S., McEvey, S.F., Barker, J.S.F., Wolf, L.L. (2003). Phylogenetic, geographical, and temporal analysis of female reproductive trade-offs in drosophilidae. Evolutionary Biology, 33, 139-171.
  • Polak, M., Opoka, R., Cartwright, I.L. (2002). Response of fluctuating asymmetry to arsenic toxicity: support for the developmental selection hypothesis. Environmental Pollution, 118, 19-28.
  • Polak, Michal, Opoka, Robert, & Cartwright, Iain L (2002). Response of fluctuating asymmetry to arsenic toxicity: support for the developmental selection hypothesis. Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987), 118(1), 19-28.
  • Starmer, W.T., Patten, M., Polak, M. (2002). The statistics of detecting positional fluctuating asymmetry. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 77, 491-498.
  • Polak, M., Starmer, W.T. (2001). The quantitative genetics of fluctuating asymmetry. Evolution, 55, 498-511.
  • Polak, M., Wolf, L.L., Starmer, W.T., Barker, J.S.F. (2001). Function of the mating plug in Drosophila hibisci Bock. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 49, 196-205.
  • Wolf, L.L., Starmer, W.T., Polak, M., Barker, J.S. F. (2000). Genetic architecture of a wing size measure in Drosophila hibisci from two populations in eastern Australia. Heredity, 85, 521-529.
  • Wolf, L.L., Polak, M., Barker, J.S.F., Bowles, J., Starmer, W.T. (2000). Reproductive characteristics of Drosophila hibisci in the Northern Territory, Australia. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 71, 549-562.
  • Starmer, W.T., Polak, M., Wolf, L.L., Barker, J.S.F. (2000). Reproductive characteristics of the flower-breeding Drosophila hibisci Bock (Drosophilidae) in eastern Australia: within-population genetic determinants of ovariole number. Heredity, 84, 90-96.
  • Polak, M., Starmer, W.T. (1998). Parasite-induced risk of mortality elevates reproductive effort in male Drosophila. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 265, 2197-2201.Link]
  • Starmer, W.T., Polak, M., Wolf, L.L., Barker, J S. F. (1998). Reproductive characteristics of the flower breeding Drosophila hibisci bock (Drosophilidae) in eastern Australia: Genetic and environmental determinants of ovariole number. Evolution, 52, 806-815.
  • Polak, M., Starmer, W.T., Barker, J S. F. (1998). A mating plug and male mate choice in Drosophila hibisci Bock. Animal Behaviour, 56, 919-926.
  • Polak, M. (1998). Effects of ectoparasitism on host condition in the Drosophila-Macrocheles system. Ecology, 79, 1807-1817.
  • Polak, M. & Markow, T.A. (1995). Effect of ectoparasitic mites on sexual selection in a Sonoran Desert fruit fly. Evolution, 49, 660-669.
  • Polak, M. & Trivers, R.L. (1994). The science of symmetry in Biology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 9, 122-124.
  • Polak, M. (1994). Large-size advantage and assessment of resource holding potential in male Polistes fuscatus (F) (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Animal Behaviour, 48, 1231-1234.
  • Polak, M. (1993). Landmark territoriality in the Neotropical paper wasps Polistes canadensis (L) and P. carnifex (F) (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Ethology, 95, 278-290.

Books

  • Lawrence, R.D. & fully updated & revised by Polak, M. (2005). The Natural History of Canada, Second Edition. Toronto, Canada: Key Porter Books.
  • Polak, M. (Editor) (2003). Developmental Instability: Causes and Consequences. New York: Oxford University Press.

Book Chapter

  • POLAK, M., Møller, A.P., Gangestad, S., Manning, J., Thornhill, R. (2003). Developmental Instability: Causes and Consequences. In M. Polak (Eds.), Does an individual asymmetry parameter exist? A meta-analysis. (pp. 81-96). New York: Oxford University Press.

Experience & Service

Courses Taught

  • 15-BIOL-577 EVOLUTIONARY BIOL
    Level: Undergraduate
    Term: 10A

  • 15-BIOL-550 ANIMAL BEHAVIOR
    Level: Undergraduate
    Term: 10A