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June Yong Lee

Ph.D Student

Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Museum of Comparative Zoology

Harvard University

26 Oxford Street

Cambridge, MA02138

Tel : 617-496-9389 (Office)

Fax : 617-495-5667

Email :


M.S. Biological Sciences, Seoul National University, 2005

B.A. Forest Resources, Seoul National University, 2002



Research Interests

Black-billed magpie [Pica pica sericea]

My main interest has been how sexual selection has shaped the evolution of male traits that usually reduce their fitness. According to Darwin-Fisher theory of sexual selection, we would expect that the extreme secondary sexual characters seen in the males can evolve because female mating preferences cause the more elaborate males to obtain more mates. This phenomenon is also observed in an extended phenotype, such as the nest of the black-billed magpie. Pica pica sericea. Female magpies prefer a male that builds a bigger nest, and tend to lay more eggs as nest size increases. For my master thesis, I studied how sexual selection has interacted with natural selection on their nest size. 

For Ph.D research at Harvard, I am going to focus more on genetic mechanisms of sexual selection. Among suggested theories, two-locus model has been widely used and improved by many researchers. Two genetic loci of this model are a P locus that determines the female mating preference and a T locus that governs a trait expressed only in males. This theory explains that these two loci are enough to make a deleterious male trait to evolve. Even though the theory explains underlying genetics of sexual selection as simple as two-locus, most empirical studies were limited in comparison between taxa in phylogenetic tree using indirect methods and are still at early stage. In order to make a further step, I am going to find candidate genes responsible for sexual selection, and then figure out how the expression of those genes influences behaviors. To achieve this goal, I am going to use the Red-backed fairywren, Malurus melanocephalus. This species shows a quite amazing dimorphism in sexes and extraordinary characteristics that do not occur in other groups, such as reversed sexual dimorphism and approximately four-year delay in developing nuptial plumage. In addition, the Family Maluridae to which red-backed fairywren belongs makes my research more interesting due to its interesting evolutionary patterns: co-operative breeding, sexual dimorphism, a high rate of extra pair copulation and petal carrying behaviors for inter-sexual display during breeding season. I have recently published on their phylogeography to obtain abetter understanding of their evolutionary history (Lee and Edwards 2008). With 30 newly developed anonymous markers, I estimated genetic diversity and demographic information about this species, which will be used as a background to gene expression studies I am planning. I have recently used some of these markers to estimate the phylogenetic relationships of species in the family. I will then compare these patterns at neutral loci with those under natural selection as judged by analysis of gene expression in gonads.


Recent Publications

June Yong Lee 2005 ‘Compromises between natural and sexual selection in the black-billed magpie Pica pica sericea nest’ Master'sThesis, Seoul National University.

Lee, J. Y. and S. V. Edwards. 2008. Divergence across Australia's Carpentarian barrier: Statistical phylogeography of the Red-backed Fairy Wren (Malurus melanocephalus) Evolution 62: 3117-3134.

Balakrishnan, C.N., Lee J. Y. and Edwards, S. V. 2010. Shared genetic polymorphisms among species: causes, challenges and opportunities for inferring evolutionary history In press In: From Field Observations to Mechanisms. A Program in Evolutionary Biology. (Eds., Peter and Rosemary Grant), Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.


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