Our lab in Biology and EEB works on the evolutionary ecology of animal behavior, particularly as it relates to hybridization in nature. We focus on mate choice and its consequences: we seek to understand how mating decisions work and how they evolve, and in turn to understand the role of sexual interactions in shaping basic ecological and evolutionary processes. We do this by marrying state-of-the-art techniques in evolutionary genomics with a deep, integrative approach to studying complex phenotypes.
Our primary focus is on sexual behavior in small freshwater fishes, although lab members work on a wide variety of topics and organisms. Our lab at TAMU includes extensive indoor space for experimentation and animal housing. Our CICHAZ research station in Calnali, Hidalgo, is located on one of our long-term NSF-LTREB sites in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental. A recent NSF-FSML grant allowed us to develop new outdoor and indoor animal space and a new molecular laboratory.
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.
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.
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.