Grant: $166,555 - National Science Foundation - Jun. 22, 2009
50% voted satisfied - 50% voted not satisfied - 2 vote(s) cast
Award Description: The independent evolution of the same traits in different organisms is strongly indicative of adaptation. However, similarities can also exist because of common genetic, developmental, scaling, and functional constraints and could only rarely arise because of similar genetic changes to a shared environmental challenge. Traits might also come to resemble each other because of plastic, or non-genetic change, in response to the same environmental stimuli. This proposal will test the relative importance of jaw plasticity for the convergent evolution of molluskivory, eating hard-shelled snails and clams, in cichlid fishes. Plasticity in the cichlid jaw that results from bone growth in response to the mechanical stress of crushing could contribute to the success of these fishes. If jaw remodeling results in more similar phenotypes than expected by chance, this would implicate plasticity as key to cichlid trophic adaptation. The outlined approach integrates phylogenetic reconstruction, experimental lab studies of phenotypic plasticity, finite element analysis, and the generation of null models of phenotypic evolution to test how phenotypic plasticity contributes to structural convergence in the cichlid jaw. In this series of studies, we will determine: 1) How has trophic specialization on mollusks evolved during the Heroine cichlid diversification? 2) Is plasticity more important than non-plastic divergence in adapting the jaw to crushing forces? and 3) Does force-induced plasticity increase morphological convergence in the cichlid jaw? This work will support several undergraduate and graduate students and contribute to our understanding of how the mechanical strength of bone changes during evolution. Increasing our understanding of how bone remodels during evolution could ultimately shed light on degenerative bone conditions such as osteoporosis. This grant will provide training for a minimum of 3 to 6 undergraduates and at least 2 graduate students. Currently, there is one female undergraduate student working in the lab, and a female graduate student is being recruited for the Fall 2010. Importantly, the present work will be done within the context of comparative evolutionary physiology that will provide graduate and undergraduate students with an integrative intellectual environment in which to conduct their studies. Publication in high profile journals that widely disseminate results is a high priority of the laboratory. This record of publication is augmented through attendance at scientific meetings and symposia, such as the 'Genomics and Vertebrate Adaptive Radiation: A Celebration of the First Cichlid Genome organized by the PI. The PI will continue to disseminate results and train personnel to do likewise through publications and attendance of national and international conferences. This award will contribute greatly to the scientific goals of our laboratory.
Project Description: We have begun several of the components of the project. We have initiated the sequencing of several nuclear genes in approximately 40 of the species that will be used for the studies. These nuclear genes will be used to reconstruct the phylogeny of these fish species. We have also begun the computed tomography scans of the pharyngeal jaws of these fishes. These scans will be used to examine the three-dimensional morphology of the jaw of these fishes. The female undergraduate student that was hired to conduct these studies has been central to the collection of this information.
Infrastructure Description: This is a conditional field. This grant is not an Infrastructure project.
Jobs Summary: One undergraduate student has been directly hired as a result of the stimulus grant. She is an undergraduate student who had performed research in the lab for free the semester previous to the award. She previously worked at several part-time jobs off-campus, but is now able to support her studies through research in the laboratory. This should enable her to more rapidly complete her undergraduate degree while simultaneously increase her laboratory experience. She is currently working on sequencing several genes related to phylogenetic reconstruction of the relationships of cichlid fishes. Several more students will be hired in the near future. (Total jobs reported: 1)
Project Status: Less Than 50% Completed
This award's data was last updated on Jun. 22, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.