Evolutionary Development

Variation is the essential raw material for evolution. Understanding how variation at the nucleotide level translates into phenotypic (morphological, behavioral, life history) variation provides fundamental perspective on how development produces different phenotypes from similar genetic backgrounds.

We are interested in knowing where and what types of changes in the genome translate into phenotypic differences in color pattern between closely related cichlid species. Cichlids are emerging as new model systems for studying color pattern development and evolution, given their high phenotypic diversity and also the availability of new genetic engineering approaches. We are also interested in understanding how interactions between pigment cell types contribute to generate those color pattern differences. To address those questions, we are focusing on differences in facial stripe patterns within the Princess cichlids of the genus Neolamprologus. Species of Neolamprologus display sometimes rather distinct facial color patterns, where different pigment cell types – iridescent iridophores, dark melanophores and yellow xanthophores – originate intricate phenotypes or lack organized patterns.

Neolamprologus brichardi (left), N. marunguensis (right) and other related Princess cichlids endemic to Lake Tanganyika differ in several aspects of their facial color patterns.

 

We are also interested in looking into the mechanisms mediating adaptation to new, often extreme environments to understand the molecular basis of evolutionary (adaptive) phenotypic changes. In particular, how genomic differences between divergent populations and species translate into different phenotypes (e.g., life history traits, morphology, behavior).

 

Last updated: October 30th, 2018

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