Our lab is interested in the processes that underlie biological diversification and adaptation: understanding species formation and persistence, from developmental, genomic, ecological and behavioral perspectives. We also do our share in conservation of endangered species, science education and outreach. We essentially go where interesting questions take us.
Although we are open to different systems, our research has used several fish models to address these fundamental questions in evolutionary biology, since they are the most diverse vertebrate group and are found in many types of environments. Cichlids from Lake Tanganyika have achieved a special emphasis in our research, in particular species of the genus Neolamprologus. Cichlids are great systems to study speciation and development, because they consist of several species-rich and species-poor lineages, with amazing life histories and exquisite adaptive phenotypes (including pigment patterns, feeding adaptations, behavior novelties). One of the most diverse lineages of East African cichlids, the Lamprologini, is composed by around 100 species, many of which display cooperative breeding behavior. Species of the Neolamprologus savoryi-species group (like Neolamprologus brichardi bellow) form extended families in which a dominant pair or trio is aided by several related (or unrelated) subordinate helpers in their daily lives, like defending their territory, cleaning eggs, digging sand. While most Lamprologini are sexually monochromatic (males and females look alike) they show an enormous diversity of body shapes and color patterns. This unique combination of characteristics makes them excellent contrasting elements to other, more intensively studied and better known sexually dichromatic cichlid lineages, such as the Haplochromini cichlids from Lakes Malawi and Victoria, with the added benefit that often phenotypes are not sex- or breeding-dependent.
Other lucky fish models we have been studying are European nases and roaches (Iberian Iberochondrostoma, Achondrostoma and Pseudochondrostoma), Circum-Mediterranean barbels (Iberian and Italian Barbus and Luciobarbus). And we keep an eye open for the occasional exotic species that pops-up in field sites.
Interested in joining us at Indiana State University? Or perhaps at the University of Lisbon? Get in touch!
Last updated: October 30th, 2018