About

I am a biologist with broad interests in ecology and evolution. Overall, I have a keen interest in the processes that underlie biological diversification and adaptation: understanding species formation and persistence, from genomic, ecologic and behavioral perspectives. I also try to do my share in conservation of endangered species, science education and outreach.

My early training has focused on the genomics of speciation, population and conservation genetics, phylogenetics and phylogeography. More recently I have been into visual ecology and animal communication, linking form and function of pigmentation traits.

In my research I have 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 gained special emphasis in my research, in particular species of the genus Neolamprologus. Cichlids are great systems to study speciation, because they are composed of several species-rich and species-poor lineages, with amazing life histories and exquisite adaptations. 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 business. Furthermore, most Lamprologini are sexually monochromatic (males and females look alike) and 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.

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Neolamprologus brichardi and other related Princess cichlids endemic to Lake Tanganyika are found throughout rocky shores and form extended families with many dozen individuals that help in territory defense, maintenance and brood care.

The other lucky fish models I have been studying are European nases and roaches (Iberian Iberochondrostoma, Achondrostoma and Pseudochondrostoma), Circum-Mediterranean barbels (Iberian and Italian Barbus and Luciobarbus). And I keep an eye open for the occasional exotic species that pops-up in my field sites.

I am currently a Visiting Scientist at the University of Basel, in Walter Salzburger’s lab.

 

Last updated: August 18th, 2017

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