Emília Martins

Emília Martins

Professor, Biology


  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1992

Research interests

My primary research interest is in the evolution of complex behavioral traits such as communication and social behavior. Our goal is to understand how microevolutionary processes acting on a generation time scale (e.g., random genetic drift, selection, learning) translate into the macro-evolutionary patterns we see across species, with the hope also of using interspecific data sets to understand phenotypic evolution. Our research has divided itself into: 1) empirical studies of communication and social behavior using lizards as a model system, 2) development of statistical and computer tools for exploring and analyzing interspecific data in a phylogenetic context, and 3) coordination of a community-wide effort to store large quantities of behavioral information in electronic form and to make it available to others on-line.

The main goal of our empirical research is to identify specific aspects of behavior that might evolve, to learn more about the mechanisms by which they might evolve, and to trace those aspects through small differences among populations to big differences among species or clades. We do this using a combination of field and laboratory experiments, supplemented by frequent applications of the comparative method. Along the way, students in my lab have developed projects on questions as diverse as speciation, conservation, the effects of provisioning on social structure, learning, territoriality and chemical communication. Although most of our research focuses on the headbob displays produced by many species of lizards, we work on a variety of different taxa in North America (spiny lizards: Sceloporus), the Caribbean (rock iguanas: Cyclura), and South America (Liolaemus).

Public databases and comparative studies are used throughout biology, whenever researchers are searching for general patterns that are true for large groups of organisms or are trying to understand how specific patterns came to be. Much of our lab’s past research has involved the development of statistical methods for incorporating phylogenetic information into such analyses. We also produce the COMPARE package of computer programs, which allows other researchers to apply several phylogenetic methods to their own data over the internet. More recently, we are coordinating a community-wide effort (EthoSource) to make behavioral data publicly available, including a public data repository and a dispersed, linked network of existing databases around the world. As part of this effort, our lab is creating our own archive of lizard display data, including film clips and several other types of behavioral measurements.

Representative publications

Behavioral Syndromes and the Evolution of Correlated Behavior in Zebrafish (2007)
Jason A. Moretz, Emilia P. Martins and Barrie D. Robison
Behavioral Ecology, 18 (3), 556-562

Courtship Attention in Sagebrush Lizards Varies with Male Identity and Female Reproductive State (2008)
Mayté Ruiz, Erica Davis and Emilia P. Martins a
Behavioral Ecology, 19 (6), 1326-1332

Display Plasticity in Response to a Robotic Lizard: Signal Matching or Song-Sharing in Lizards? (2006)
C. Brian Smith and Emilia P. Martins
Ethology, 112 (10), 955-962

Divergence of Visual Motion Detection in Diurnal Geckos That Inhabit Bright and Dark Habitats (2009)
Saúl S. Nava, Mirela A. Conway and Emilia P. Martins a
Functional Ecology, 23 (4), 794-799

Food Supplementation and Testosterone Interact to Influence Reproductive Behavior and Immune Function in Sceloporus Graciosus (2010)
Mayté Ruiz, Susannah S. French, Gregory E. Demas and Emilia P. Martins a
Hormones and Behavior, 57 (2), 134-139

Individual, Sex, Seasonal and Temporal Variation in the Amount of Sagebrush Lizard Scent-Marks (2006)
Emilia P. Martins, Terry J. Ord, James Slaven, J. L. Wright and Elizabeth A. Housworth
Journal of Chemical Ecology, 32 (4), 881-893

Inhibitory Interactions Between Multimodal Behavioral Responses May Influence the Evolution of Complex Signals (2008)
Julie T. Thompson, Ahrash N. Bissell and Emilia P. Martins
Animal Behaviour, 76 (1), 113-121

Male Choice and Female Avoidance as Mechanisms of Population Discrimination in Sagebrush Lizards (2006)
Ahrash N. Bissell and Emilia P. Martins
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 60 (5), 655-662

Male Sagebrush Lizards (Sceloporus Graciosus) Increase Exploratory Behavior Towards Females with More Courtship Experience (2010)
Mayté Ruiz, Zachary M. Beals and Emilia P. Martins a
Herpetologica, 66 (2), 142-147

Sex-Specific Visual Performance: Female Lizards Outperform Males Motion Detection (2009)
Saúl S. Nava, Mirela A. Conway and Emilia P. Martins a
Biology Letters, 5 (6), 732-734

The Effects of Early and Adult Social Environment on Zebrafish (Danio Rerio) Behavior (2007)
Jason A. Moretz, Emilia P. Martins and Barrie D. Robison
Environmental Biology of Fishes, 80 (1), 91-101

The Effects of Two Courtship Display Components on Female Reproductive Behaviour and Physiology in the Sagebrush Lizard (2008)
Erin C. Kelso and Emilia P. Martins
Animal Behaviour, 75 (2), 639-646

Tracing the Origins of Signal Diversity in Anole Lizards: Phylogenetic Approaches to Inferring the Evolution of Complex Behaviour (2006)
Terry J. Ord and Emilia P. Martins
Animal Behaviour, 71 (6), 1411-1429

Using Graph Theory Metrics to Infer Information Flow Through Animal Social Groups: A Computer Simulation Analysis (2009)
Cuauhcihuatl Vital and Emilia P. Martins
Ethology, 115 (4), 347-355