Sympatric Color Morphs of the Black-sided Hawkfish

Stable sympatric color morphs are common in coral reef fishes, yet their origin or how they are maintained is poorly understood. Our lab is using hawkfishes of the genus Paracirrhites as a model system to tease apart the mechanisms maintaining color polymorphisms in these coral reef fishes.

Evolution of Deep-sea Fishes

Substantial changes in species assemblages with depth have been recorded, and relatively narrow depth ranges can distinguish closely related species. Even intraspecific genetic structure has been recorded over relatively narrow depth ranges in a few species. Our research is aimed at investigating the mechanisms that drive intraspecific divergence over depth.

Adaptation to Divergent Photic Environments

Visual sensitivity is a trait that is expected to vary under different photic environments. In the clear oligotrophic waters of most coral reefs, light penetrates to greater depths and attenuates differently then in waters rich in phytoplankton. Opsins are a family of photoreceptor proteins involved in light detection, each of which have a different spectral sensitivity. It is hypothesized that there is an interaction between water clarity and cone spectral sensitivity, with fish inhabiting clearer waters showing shortwave-shifted visual sensitivities. Our lab is examining the evolution of opsin genes in fishes that live in contrasting visual environments and the role of selection in species divergence. For this work we are using species of the genus Acanthurus as a model group.