MRE Symonds (1999) Life histories of the Insectivora: the role of phylogeny, metabolism and sex differences. Journal of Zoology 249: 315-337.

What is it about?

Using insectivores (hedgehogs, shrews and moles etc.) as a study-group I investigated how life history strategies in this order are evolutionarily linked metabolism and extent of sexual dimorphism – but also how interpretation varies in relation to which phylogenetic hypothesis (and insectivores have a lot of them) is used as the basis for comparative analysis.

What’s the story behind it?

When I was doing my PhD, I asked my estimable supervisor (Dr Adrian Friday) whether I should concentrate on writing up my thesis or getting a couple of papers out. He advised the former. I disagreed (I still think I was right). This was the main fruit of that labour – an overly bloated paper*, that nonetheless skipped easily into Journal of Zoology (in fact it remains, with one exception, perhaps the easiest reviewer ride I’ve ever had for a paper).

* The only time I ever met Paul Harvey (one time godfather of the comparative method) and mentioned this paper his response was ‘no paper that long is ever worth publishing’. That was literally the only thing he has ever said to me.

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