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Overview

The overarching question of my research boils down to how organisms evolve complex phenotypes from complex genomes. I am question driven, not species-driven--and believe in using the best model for any given question. I am classically trained in both biology and biological anthropology, which means a lot of my questions tend to be interdisciplinary.

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The genetics of adaptation
in threespine sticklebacks

Threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) freshwater forms have repeatedly and rapidly diversified in a myriad of traits (Fig. 1) from their marine ancestors (within the last 12,000 years).

Understanding what conditions favor rapid adaptation in wild populations is essential because it may shed light on when wild populations may fail to adapt to changing conditions. Threespine stickleback are an ideal taxon for these interests as they present a natural wild experiment. For this project, we are combining genomics, phenotyping, and modeling.

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Indriidae hair evolution; implications for humans 

Indrids (indri, avahi, and sifakas) are found throughout the island of Madagascar, in every eco-region & spanning multiple climate zones.

 

We are using bioinformatics and pelage analysis to help us understand the evolutionary factors that contribute to the diversity of pelage in this clade.  

Tapanes et al., in preperation

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Diademed sifaka evolution 

Diademed sifakas of Tsinjoarivo, Madagascar, have intrigued naturalists > 50 years, for the diversity seen in their coat color patterns.

 

Unlike the common tri-colored phenotype, sifakas at Tsinjoarivo vary in the degree of eumelanin in their coats -- some individuals are completely melanic. 

Through a collaboration with Malagasy NGO Sadabe, along with Dr. Mitch Irwin, we are using careful phenotyping and molecular tools to start to untangle the story of melanism and the evolutionary history of diademed sifakas. 

 

Sifaka illustrations courtesy of Stephen Nash/IUCN Primate Specialist Group. 

Tapanes et al., in review -- 1 of 3 likely papers