Professor Karim Vahed

Prof. Karim Vahed

Position: Professor of Entomology; Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences

College: College of Life & Natural Sciences

Department: Biosciences

Subject area: Biological Sciences

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Professor of Entomology; Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences; Programme Leader for MSc Conservation Biology.

Teaching responsibilities

I am Programme Leader for Conservation Biology (MSc) and teach on BSc Hons Biology and Zoology programmes. My teaching covers the following areas:

  • Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology
  • Invertebrate Biology
  • Entomology
  • Ecology and Conservation Biology
  • Supervision of undergraduate and post-graduate research projects

Research interests

My main research interests include post-copulatory sexual selection and inter-sexual conflict in arthropods. I am particularly interested in strategies used by male orthopterans (crickets, bushcrickets and relatives) to secure copulations, to prolong the duration of copulation and ejaculate transfer, to protect the ejaculate within the female and to manipulate the reproductive behaviour of the female, cryptic female choice and polyandry.

My research is also concerned with the selective pressures responsible for the evolution and maintenance of nuptial feeding behaviour in arthropods. In a range of insects and spiders, males feed females during courtship and/or copulation. These food gifts take a variety of forms: prey items captured by the male, glandular secretions, or even parts of the male's body. I am interested in whether nuptial feeding is mutually beneficial for the two sexes, or whether it is actually a subtle way in which the male can manipulate the reproductive behaviour of the female against her evolutionary interests.

I also have more general interests in the ecology, natural history and conservation of terrestrial and freshwater arthropods.

Membership of professional bodies

Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, Fellow of the Linnean Society, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Member of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour and the International Orthopterist's Society. Member of the International Orthopterist's Society's Grants Committee (2003 - 2013), member of the Royal Entomological Society's Membership Committee (2015-), member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission "Grasshopper" Specialist Group.


Undergraduate qualifications

  • BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences, University of Exeter

Research qualifications

  • PhD Zoology, University of Nottingham

Recent publications

  • Parker, J D, Zaborowska, J, Ritchie, G M & Vahed, K (2017) Paternity analysis of wild-caught females shows that sperm package size and placement influence fertilisation success in the bushcricket Pholidoptera griseoaptera. Molecular Ecology, doi: 10.1111/mec.14089.
  • Vahed, K (2015). Cryptic female choice in crickets (Orthoptera: Ensifera). In Peretti, A.V. & Aisenberg, A. (eds.) Cryptic Female Choice in Arthropods-Patterns, Mechanisms and Prospects. Springer.
  • Vahed, K, Gilbert, J D J, Weissman, D B & Barrientos-Lozano, L (2014) Functional equivalence of grasping cerci and nuptial food gifts in promoting ejaculate transfer in katydids. Evolution ,68: 2052-2065.
  • Lewis, S M, Vahed, K, Koene, J M, Engqvist, L, Bussiere, L F, Perry, J C, Gwynne, D T, Lehmann, G U C (2014) Emerging issues in the evolution of animal nuptial gifts. Biology Letters, 10: 20140336 (published online).
  • Vahed, K & Parker, D J (2012) The evolution of large testes: sperm competition or male mating rate? Ethology, 118: 107 - 117.
  • Vahed, K, Lehmann, A W, Gilbert, J D J & Lehmann, G U C (2011) Increased copulation duration before ejaculate transfer is associated with larger spermatophores and male genital titillators across bushcricket taxa. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 24: 1960-1968.
  • Vahed, K (2011) Titanic testicles in tettigoniids add weight to the male mating rate hypothesis. Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Canada, 43: 136-140.
  • Ritchie, M G & Vahed K (2011) Sexual selection: do flies lie with asymmetric legs? Current Biology, 21: R233-R234.
  • Vahed, K, Parker, D J, Gilbert, S (2011) Larger testes are associated with a higher level of polyandry, but a smaller ejaculate volume, across bushcricket species (Tettigoniidae). Biology Letters, 7: 261-264.
  • Parker, D J & Vahed, K (2010) The intensity of pre- and post- copulatory mate guarding in relation to spermatophore transfer in the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus. Journal of Ethology, 28: 245-249.
  • Warwick, S, Vahed, K, Raubenheimer, D & Simpson, S (2009) Free amino acids as phagostimulants in cricket nuptial gifts: support for the "Candymaker" hypothesis. Biology Letters, 5: 194-196.
  • Vahed, K & Carron, G (2008) Comparison of forced mating behaviour in four taxa ofAnonconotus, the Alpine Bushcricket. Journal of Zoology, 276: 313-321.
  • Vahed, K (2007) Comparative evidence for a cost to males of manipulating females in bushcrickets. Behavioural Ecology, 18:507-512.
  • Vahed, K (2007) All that glisters is not gold: sensory bias, sexual conflict and nuptial feeding in insects and spiders. Ethology, 113: 105-127.
  • Vahed, K (2006) Larger ejaculate volumes are associated with a lower degree of polyandry across bushcricket taxa. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B 273: 2387-2394.
  • Wynne, H & Vahed, K (2004) Male Gryllus bimaculatus guard females to delay them from mating with novel males and to monopolise them for repeated matings. Journal of Insect Behavior 17: 53-66.
  • Vahed, K (2003) Increases in egg production in multiply-mated female bushcrickets,Leptophyes punctatissima, are not due to substances in the nuptial gift. Ecological Entomology 28: 124-128.
  • Vahed, K (2003) The structure of spermatodoses in shield-back bushcrickets (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Tettigoniinae). Journal of Morphology 257: 45-52.
  • Vahed, K (2002) Coercive copulation in the Alpine Bushcricket Anonconotus alpinus Yersin (Tettigoniidae: Tettigoniidae: Platycleidini). Ethology 108: 1065-1075.

Recent conferences

  • Royal Entomological Society meeting (Orthoptera special interest group), Natural History Museum, London, November 2016. Oral presentation entitled: Surveying one of Britain's rarest crickets: the Scaly cricket, Pseudomogoplistes vicentae. (co-author: R. Poston-Saynor).
  • XXV International Congress of Entomology, Orlando, Florida, September 2016. Poster entitled: The opportunity for sexual selection does not explain the evolution of complex genitalia in bushcrickets. (Presented by co-authors: G.U.C. Lehmann, A.W. Lehmann and J.D.J. Gilbert).
  • First European Congress on Orthoptera Conservation, University of Trier, Germany, March 2016. Key note talk: Comparing copulating crickets: comparative studies of postcopulatory sexual selection in bushcrickets.
  • First European Congress on Orthoptera Conservation, University of Trier, Germany, March 2016. Oral presentation entitled: The life cycle of the scaly cricket, Pseudomogoplistes vicentae.
  • Royal Entomological Society meeting (Orthoptera special interest group), Natural History Museum, London, November 2014. Oral presentation entitled: The life cycle of the scaly cricket, Pseudomogoplistes vicentae.
  • Royal Entomological Society International Symposium and Annual National Science Meeting: “30 Years of Thornhill and Alcock: the evolution of insect mating systems”, University of St.Andrews, September 2013. Organised and chaired a symposium entitled: Nuptial Gifts, Diversity and Evolution.
  • Royal Entomological Society meeting (Orthoptera special interest group), Natural History Museum, London, November 2012. Oral presentation entitled:Coercive mating in scaly crickets.
  • 24th International Congress of Entomology, Daegu, Korea, August 2012. Oral presentation (delivered by co-author J.D.J. Gilbert) entitled: Comparative evidence that copulatory spermatophore guarding is associated with smaller nuptial gifts and modifications in the form and use of the male's cerci in bushcrickets. (Co-authors: J.D.J. Gilbert, D. Weissman and L. Barrientos-Lozano).
  • 13th Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology, Tubingen, Germany, August 2011. Poster entitled: Male genitalia (titillators) selected to prolong copulation durations across bushcrickets. (Co-authors: G.U.C. Lehmann, A.W. Lehmann & J.D.J. Gilbert).
  • New Directions in Sexual Selection Research, University of Bath, September 2010. Oral presentation entitled: Comparative evidence suggests that prolonged copulation and nuptial feeding are analogous in function in bushcrickets.
  • ASAB summer conference: Sexual selection and the descent of man, St John's College, Oxford, September 2009. Oral presentation entitled: Sperm allocation in bushcrickets: the importance of male mating rate (presented by co-author D. Parker).
  • 10th International Congress of Orthopterology, Antalya, Turkey, June 2009. Poster entitled: Prolonged copulation following spermatophore transfer in bushcrickets is associated with reduced nuptial gift size.
  • 10th International Congress of Orthopterology, Antalya, Turkey, June 2009. Oral presentation entitled: Titillators in bushcrickets as sexually selected devices. (Co-author: G. Lehmann).
  • Association for the study of Animal Behaviour Easter Meeting, University of Cardiff, April 2009. Poster entitled: The intensity of pre- and post-copulatory mate guarding in relation to spermatophore transfer in the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus. (Co-author D. Parker)
  • Ento '08. Annual National Meeting of the Royal Entomological Society, Plymouth, U.K., September 2008. Poster entitled: Forced copulation in four taxa of alpine bushcrickets (Anonconotus spp).(Co-author G. Carron).
  • XXIII International Congress of Entomology, Durban, South Africa, July 2008. Poster entitled: Comparison of forced copulation in four taxa of alpine bushcrickets (Co-author G. Carron).

Additional interests and activities

Research Students

  • Helen Wynne; completed PhD in 2001: 'The function of mate guarding in the Field Cricket Gryllus bimaculatus' Director of studies: K. Vahed; second supervisor: R. Beck.
  • Helene Le Blanc; completed PhD in 2008: 'Olfactory stimuli associated with the different stages of vertebrate decomposition and their role in the attraction of the blowfly Calliphora vomitoria (Diptera: Calliphoridae) to carcasses'. Director of studies: K. Vahed; second supervisor: M. Hall (BMNH).
  • David Gee; started in September 2009: "Factors affecting the fighting success of male crickets". Director of Studies: K. Vahed; Second supervisor: N. Beaumont; External supervisor: M. Briffa, Plymouth University.

In the media

Recent TV programmes: Interviewed about mating in spiders for the BBC4 documentary “Spider House” (October 2014); advised on the filming of mating in Tropical House Crickets for "Micromonsters 3-D" (Atlantic Productions), narrated by Sir David Attenborough; Research on testicle size in bushcrickets was featured as a fact on the BBC quiz show QI (September 2013).

Other recent examples of my research featured in the media include: Reduced nuptial gift size and long copulation is associated with female resistance in bushcrickets (e.g. Daily Mail, May 2014) and Tuberous bushcrickets have the largest testes (as a proportion of male body mass) of any animal, but transfer a relatively small amount of sperm per mating (global media coverage in November 2010).

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