Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Staff Profile

Dr Theresa Rueger

Lecturer in Tropical Marine Biology

Background

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Animal Behavior, Evolutionary Ecology, Marine Ecology, Field Research, Molecular Ecology.

EDUCATION

2012- 2017

PhD. College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

Advisors: Geoffrey Jones, Naomi Gardiner.

Dissertation: Social relationships in small habitat-dependent coral reef fish: an ecological, behavioural and genetic analysis.

2011

Graduate Diploma of Scientific Methods, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

Advisor: Naomi M. Gardiner.

Dissertation: Relationships between pair formation, site fidelity and sex in a coral reef cardinalfish.

2007- 2010

Bachelor of Science, Biology Department, Christian Albrecht University, Kiel, Germany.

Advisor: Ulrich Sommer.

Dissertation: Temperature effects on the cell size of marine phytoplankton.

CURRENT POSITIONS

2022-

Lecturer in Tropical Marine Science.

School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, UK.

2019-2023

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow.

Boston University, USA & University of Exeter, UK.

Fellowship topic: Coral reef fish shape our understanding of social evolution.

EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

2017-2019

Senior Project Consultant (Ecology), SLR Consulting, Townsville, Australia.

2017

Teaching associate, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

2012-2017

Teaching assistant, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

2011-2015

Resident researcher, Mahonia Na Dari, Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea.

2007-2012

Research assistant, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany.


PUBLICATIONS IN PRINT

17.

2022

Francis, R., Catalano, K., Majoris, J., Rueger, T., D’Aloia, C., Bogdanowisc, S., Buston, P. Characteristics of breeding habitat, genetic mating system, and determinants of mating success in the sponge-dwelling goby Elacatinus lori. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology in print.

16.

2022

Rueger, T., Bhardwaj, A., Turner, E., Barbasch, T., Trumble, I., Dent, B., Buston, P. Vertebrate growth plasticity in response to a mutualistic interaction. Scientific Reports, 12:11238.

15.

2022

Rueger, T., Heatwole, S. Wong, M. Social rank and species-specific differences influence cooperation and conflict in anemonefish societies. Animal Behaviour. 187:105-116.

14.

2022

Buston, P., Branconi, R., Rueger, T. Social Evolution: Formation, Maintenance,

and Transformation of Social Groups. In: Evolution, Development and Ecology of Anemonefishes: Model Organisms for Marine Science (eds. V. Laudet & T. Ravasi)

13.

2021

Rueger, T., Wong, M., Heatwole, S., Branconi, R., Buston, P. The next frontier in understanding the evolution of coral reef fish societies. Frontiers in Marine Science. 8: 665780

12.

2021

Rueger, T., Bogdanowicz, S., Buston, P., Wong, M. Genetic relatedness in social groups of the emerald coral goby Paragobiodon xanthosoma creates potential for weak kin selection. Molecular Ecology. 30: 1311-1321.

11.

2020

Rueger, T., Harrison, H., Buston, P., Gardiner, N., Berumen, M., Jones, G. Natal philopatry increases relatedness within groups of coral reef cardinalfish. Proc B. 287: 20201133.

10.

2020

Barbasch, T., Rueger, T., Srinivasan, M., Wong, M., Jones, G., Buston, P. Substantial Plasticity of Reproduction and Parental Care in Response to Local Resource Availability. Oikos. 129: 1844-1855.

9.

2019

Rueger, T., Harrison, H., Gardiner, N., Berumen, M., Jones, G. Extra-pair mating in a socially monogamous and paternal mouthbrooding cardinalfish. Molecular Ecology. 28: 2625- 2635.

8.

2019

Giffin, A., Rueger, T., Jones, G. Ontogenetic shifts in microhabitat use and coral selectivity in three coral reef fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 102: 55-67.

7.

2018

Rueger, T., Barbasch, T., Wong, M., Srinivasan, M., Jones, G., Buston, P. Reproductive control via the threat of eviction in the clown anemonefish. Proc B. 285: 20181295.

6.

2018

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. Site fidelity facilitates pair formation in aggregations of coral reef cardinalfish. Oecologia. 186: 425-434.

5.

2016

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. Homing is not for everyone: displaced cardinalfish find a new place to live. Journal of Fish Biology. 89: 2182-2188.

4.

2016

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. Size matters: male and female mate choice leads to size-assortative pairing in a coral reef cardinalfish. Behavioural Ecology. 27: 1585-159.1

3.

2015

Rueger, T., Harrison, H., Jones, G., Mansour, H., Berumen, M. Resolving genealogical relationships in the Pyjama cardinalfish, Sphaeramia nematoptera (Apogonidae) with 23 novel microsatellite markers. Conservation Genetics Resources. 7: 623-627.

2.

2014

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. Relationships between pair formation, site-fidelity and gender in a coral reef cardinalfish. Behavioural Processes. 107: 119-126.

1.

2012

Rueger, T., Sommer, U. (2012) Warming does not always benefit the small- results from a plankton experiment. Aquatic Botany. 97: 64-68.

PUBLICATIONS IN REVIEW (AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST)

202X

Rueger, T., MacDonald, C., Harrison, H., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. Mills, S. Strength and direction of sexual direction and sex roles vary between social groups in a coral reef cardinalfish. Proceedings B in revision.

202X

Yllan, L., Heatwole, S., Wong, M., Rueger, T. The effect of social context on behaviour in anemonefish hierarchies. Animal Behaviour in revision.

Research

SOCIAL EVOLUTION AND GROUP LIVING


Social groups in which some individuals forgo their own reproduction and cooperate with others present a number of paradoxes, since it is not immediately apparent how selection preserves the genes that underlie non-breeding strategies. While this question has usually been investigated in birds, mammals and social insects, new advances have been made by studying coral reef fishes. Buston and Wong have found that in both the clown anemonefish and the emerald coral goby, non-breeders will tolerate their position because they stand to inherit breeding positions, and because there are ecological and social constraints4. Also, breeders gain no obvious benefits from the presence of non-breeders, leaving us with the question: why do breeders tolerate non-breeders? I am currently working with both investigators on both systems, along with Mike Cant, to tackle that question using molecular approaches, long-term field experiments, and theoretical modeling. This, in turn, is laying the foundations for a number of other interesting projects.


Relevant publications


Buston, P., Branconi, R., Rueger, T. 2022. Social Evolution: Formation, Maintenance,

and Transformation of Social Groups. In: Evolution, Development and Ecology of Anemonefishes: Model Organisms for Marine Science (eds. V. Laudet & T. Ravasi)


Rueger, T., Heatwole, S. Wong, M. 2022. Cooperative and aggressive behaviors vary between ranks in anemonefish social hierarchies. Animal Behaviour in print. Preprint: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.19.427348


Rueger, T., Wong, M., Heatwole, S., Branconi, R., Buston, P. 2021. The next frontier in understanding the evolution of coral reef fish societies. Frontiers in Marine Science. 8: 665780

Rueger, T., Barbasch, T., Wong, M., Srinivasan, M., Jones, G., Buston, P. 2018. Reproductive control via the threat of eviction in the clown anemonefish. Proc B. 285: 20181295.


EVOLUTION OF MATING SYSTEMS


One research goal is to understand the ecology and evolution of mating systems in coral reef fishes, using molecular tools as well as long-term field studies and behavioural experiments. This work already provided new insights into the mating systems of coral reef fishes, using cardinalfishes as models. Cardinalfish are paternal mouthbrooders, where fathers carry the brood in their mouth until they hatch. This costly investment leads to many interesting questions to explore, especially when it comes to sexual selection and mate choice. I am also interested in how fishes use social information in choosing a mate.


Relevant publications


Barbasch, T., Rueger, T., Srinivasan, M., Wong, M., Jones, G., Buston, P. 2020. Substantial Plasticity of Reproduction and Parental Care in Response to Local Resource Availability. Oikos. 129: 1844-1855.

Rueger, T., Harrison, H., Gardiner, N., Berumen, M., Jones, G. 2019. Extra-pair mating in a socially monogamous and paternal mouthbrooding cardinalfish. Molecular Ecology. 28: 2625- 2635.

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. 2016. Site fidelity facilitates pair formation in aggregations of coral reef cardinalfish. Oecologia. 186: 425-434.

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. 2015. Homing is not for everyone: displaced cardinalfish find a new place to live. Journal of Fish Biology. 89: 2182-2188.

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. 2015. Size matters: male and female mate choice leads to size-assortative pairing in a coral reef cardinalfish. Behavioural Ecology. 27: 1585-159.1

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N., Jones, G. 2014. Relationships between pair formation, site-fidelity and gender in a coral reef cardinalfish. Behavioural Processes. 107: 119-126.


SMALL-SCALE POPULATION DYNAMICS


Kin selection has long been thought to be the central driver for the evolution of complex groups. However, since marine animals usually have a larval dispersal phase, small-scale relatedness patterns were assumed to be unlikely in marine ecosystems. The last few decades have shown that larvae often return to their reefs of origin, therefore it is worthwhile investigating whether delayed dispersal, limited dispersal, or kin cohesion during dispersal may lead to elevated relatedness within groups. This work began during my PhD at James Cook University where I worked with the pajama cardinalfish, Sphaeramia nematoptera. Now I am using the emerald coral goby, Paragobiodon xanthosomus, to investigate small-scale relatedness patterns. For both species I surprisingly found elevated values of relatedness within groups. These findings reveal that small-scale relatedness patterns may play a role in social evolution of marine animals. Which dispersal patterns lead to the elevated relatedness within groups of some coral reef fishes is still under investigation.


Relevant publications


Rueger, T., Bogdanowicz, S., Buston, P., Wong, M. 2021. Genetic relatedness in social groups of the emerald coral goby Paragobiodon xanthosoma creates potential for weak kin selection. Molecular Ecology. 30: 1311-1321.

Rueger, T., Harrison, H., Buston, P., Gardiner, N., Berumen, M., Jones, G. 2020. Natal philopatry increases relatedness within groups of coral reef cardinalfish. Proc B. 287: 20201133.

Teaching

NES1202 Diversity of Marine Animals

NES1204 Academic and Professional Skills

NES2501 Tropical Marine Ecology

NES3204 Advanced Research Skills

NES3504 Global Marine Science