Welcome to the Hackney Price Lab!
Our research revolves around one central question: How do early life experiences shape adult phenotypes? We seek to understand biological plasticity, the capacity of living organisms to change their ‘state’ in response to environmental stimuli. The ability to modify phenotypes in response to environmental changes is essential for organisms to cope with an ever-changing, often stressful environment.
An ongoing problem in biology is to understand how organisms cope with environmental variation, including exposure to stressors such as changes in nutritional availability, exposure to toxins, increased global temperatures, and physical injury. Changes in environmental cues can alter developmental trajectories, shaping phenotypes later in life, and, while some of these changes are known to be mediated by steroid hormones, in most cases the molecular mechanisms underlying developmental plasticity remain unknown
Environmental changes experienced early in life do not only alter developmental timing and adult morphology but can also lead to altered behavior and cognitive function in older animals. We have found that adult flies exposed to acoustic stress demonstrated significant differences in courtship behavior and geotaxis. In adult black widow spiders, exposure to urban temperatures leads to altered web building and aggressive behaviors associated with marginal increases in intermolt ecdysteroid titers. With these studies, we are beginning to identify common mechanisms by which organisms alter behavior in response to changing environments.