Using evolutionary biology to understand and protect the earth's biodiversity.
The genetics & ecology
Freshwater threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) have repeatedly and rapidly diversified in a myriad of traits (Fig. 1) from their contemporary marine ancestors (within the last 12,000 years). Thus, they make an ideal model for testing what genomic and/or ecological factors favor adaptation.
Understanding the basis of rapid adaptation in wild populations is essential, because it will help us determine when wild populations may fail to adapt to changing conditions.
Broadly, this project combines genomics, ecology, morphology, and bioinformatics.
Diversification and evolution of sifaka lemurs
Indrids (indri, avahi, and sifakas) are found throughout the island of Madagascar, in every eco-region & spanning multiple climate zones. Yet, each species is threatened with extinction due to deforestation and climate change.
We are using bioinformatics and hair analysis to help us understand the evolutionary factors that contribute to biodiversity (of pelage) in this clade. The goal is to understand how evolutionary history acts as a restraint (or not) on diversification and adaptation.
Tapanes et al., in preperation
Tapanes et al., in review -- 1 of 3 likely papers
Population genetics and conservation of diademed sifakas in Tsinjoarivo, Madagascar
The Critically Endangered 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, ecological modeling, and molecular tools to start to untangle the story of melanism and the evolutionary history of diademed sifakas. Our previous work highlights that despite the mechanism for this color polymorphism, current distributions highlight a need for enhanced conservation.
Sifaka illustrations courtesy of Stephen Nash/IUCN Primate Specialist Group.