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Christine Boake

Professor Emeritus

Research Interest

Behavioral evolution, genetics


1982 - Ph.D., Cornell University


My research focuses on the process of sexual communication and its consequences. The most intriguing consequence is that sexual signals may drive speciation in conditions under which postzygotic isolation may not permit speciation.

Studies of Sexual Selection

  1. Boake's BookI am investigating the possible fitness consequences of mate choice, which can be summarized in phrases like good genes, antagonistic coevolution, and optimal mate choice. I am asking whether the female chooses the male that will enhance her fitness the most, or give her the most fit offspring. This work is being done with Drosophila, which have elaborate courtship plus the advantage of being able to rear and observe readily in the laboratory.
  2. I am also examining the genetic basis of mate choice. This starts with studies of the differences in mating preferences between genetically distinct lines of the same species, and then expands to consider the way that the environment affects the expression of different genotype. The genetic environment is likely to be as important as the external environment. That is, does a female always prefer her own genotype or always prefer to outbreed, or does it depend on the genotype of the male?

Studies of Speciation

  1. It is thought that sexual behavior and mating preferences diverge more rapidly than postzygotic isolation, at least in Drosophila. I am testing this by comparing laboratory populations of D. melanogaster to learn whether the earliest stages of speciation can be detected.
  2. Populations that diverge in mating preferences are being investigated to try to understand the nature of the courtship changes that underlie the divergence.
  3. When differences in sexual signals have been identified, we will examine the genetic basis of these differences, in an attempt to elucidate the genetic basis of speciation.

Other Research in my Laboratory

  1. Genetic basis of male aggressive behavior and female mating behavior in the wasp Nasonia; a PhD project being conducted by Jason Leonard.
  2. Genotype by environment interactions in the induction of diapause in Nasonia.

Here is a guide to get into Graduate School in Organismal Biology.


  • Boake, C.R.B., Ed. 1994. Quantitative Genetic Studies of Behavioral Evolution. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
  • Price, D.K. & Boake, C.R.B. 1995. Behavioral reproductive isolation between Drosophila silvestris, D. heteroneura, and their F1 hybrids (Diptera: Drosophilidae). J. Insect Behav., 8, 595-616.
  • Boake, C.R.B., Shelly, T.E. & Kaneshiro, K.Y. 1996. Sexual selection in relation to pest-management strategies. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 41, 211-229.
  • Boake, C.R.B., DeAngelis, M.P. & Andreadis, D.K. 1997. Is sexual selection and species recognition a continuum? Mating behavior of the stalk-eyed fly Drosophila heteroneura. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 94, 12442-12445.
  • Gavrilets, S. & C.R.B. Boake. 1998. On the evolution of premating isolation after a founder event. Am. Nat. 152, 706-716.
  • Boake, C.R.B. & Konigsberg, L. 1998. Inheritance of male courtship behavior, aggressive success, and body size in Drosophila silvestris. Evolution 52, 1487-1492.
  • Boake, C.R.B. 2000. Flying apart: Speciation in Hawaiian Drosophila. BioScience 50:501-508.
  • Boake, C.R.B. 2002 Sexual signaling and speciation, a microevolutionary perspective. Genetica 116: 205-214.
  • Boake, C.R.B., S.J. Arnold, F. Breden, L. M. Meffert, M. G. Ritchie, B. J. Taylor, J. B. Wolf, and A. J. Moore. 2002. Genetic tools for studying adaptation and the evolution of behavior. Am. Nat. 160: S143-S159
  • Boake, C.R.B., K. McDonald, S. Maitra, and R. Ganguly. 2003. Forty years of solitude: life-history divergence and behavioural isolation between laboratory lines of Drosophila melanogaster. J. Evol. Biol. 16: 83-90

Contact Information

  • 310 C Ayers, 1403 Circle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996
  • Phone: 865-974-4378
  • E-mail: