Gil G. Rosenthal
Department of Biology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843
Ph. D. Zoology,
University of Texas at Austin, 2000
Curriculum Vitae (updated August 2010)
WELCOME BY GIL ROSENTHAL
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'
- Isaac Asimov
Our lab's research focuses on mate choice and its consequences: we seek to understand how female preferences and male sexual signals work and how they evolve, and in turn to understand the role that mate choice and signaling play in shaping basic ecological and evolutionary processes. Our primary focus is on visual and chemical communication in teleost fishes, although students have worked on a wide variety of topics.
Our lab at TAMU includes extensive indoor space for experimentation and animal housing and an array of outdoor stock ponds. Our CICHAZ research station, within a long day's drive in Calnali,Hidalgo, is a home base for field trips and experimental research in the eastern Sierra Madre of Mexico.
My approach to research is to develop powerful model systems from which novel questions can emerge. The heart of our research program is animal behavior, and we enjoy collaborating with other labs with complementary areas of specialization. The lab’s main study system is natural hybrid zones of swordtail fish, centered at our CICHAZ research station, in the Sierra Madre Oriental of Hidalgo, Mexico.
Hybrids between Xiphophorus malinche and X. birchmanni represent a ‘genomic collision’ between two species with divergent suites of male traits and female preferences, and provide a terrific opportunity to understand both the genomic architecture underlying mate choice and the fitness consequences of novel sexual phenotypes in the wild. Ongoing research combines population, quantitative, and evolutionary genetics with morphological studies of male signals and behavioral studies of mate preference. Social and environmental effects on chemical signaling also play a major role in this system. In conjunction with efforts to characterize the genetics of multivariate female mating preferences, we are developing anyFish, a new tool for the creation of synthetic animated stimuli for studying visual signals.
I have recently begun a collaborative project on mate choice, life-history evolution, and ecology in the annual killifish genus Austrolebias. Like swordtails, these remarkable little Uruguayan fishes lend themselves well to both field and laboratory work. They are restricted to seasonal bodies of water, where they grow rapidly, reproduce, and die within the space of a few winter months, leaving their eggs to estivate in diapause. These closed systems should allow us to gain a comprehensive picture of the biotic and abiotic environment, and, in concert with behavioral studies of mate choice, how sexual selection changes over space and time.
Finally, amphi-American reef fishes, where multiple species on clear-water Caribbean coral reefs have close relatives in the rocky, murky eastern Pacific, provide a unique comparative system for understanding the evolution of communication. Dozens of genera with members on each coast of the Americas give us a replicated test of the same broad selective force on the evolution of skin color patterns.
TAMU offers excellent intellectual and physical resources in both the Biology Department and the broader program in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. Subtropical Bryan/College Station is within easy reach of Houston, Austin, and an array of ecologically distinct natural areas, and offers a bucolic country lifestyle in a surprisingly cosmopolitan setting.
If you’re interested in applying for a Ph.D. position in the lab, please peruse Rosenthal lab publications and read the prospective graduate student page. Undergraduates from TAMU and elsewhere interested in doing research are encouraged to read the undergraduate research page.