Phylogeny, biogeography, and evolution of electric knifefishes

In collaboration with Will Crampton (UTSC, University of Florida) and James Albert (University of Louisiana) our lab is researching the phylogenetics, biogeography, and behaviour of the Neotropical electric fish genus Gymnotus (see Albert et al., 2004). Kristie Lester (MSc candidate) is spearheading our component of the project by collecting nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences for Gymnotus species; her particular interests lie in using a total evidence phylogeny to evaluate trans-Andean biogeographic patterns.

Gymnotus arapaima from Tefé, Brazil

Gymnotus represents a particularly powerful system for studying biodiversity because each species generates a unique but stereotypical electric-organ discharge (EOD). These signals are easy to observe and quantify, and provide a means of identifying cryptic species and understanding the role of communication in reproductive isolation and divergence. Our consideration of the evolution of EODs, in relation to phylogeny and biogeography, will afford an unrivaled perspective on the orgins of species-level diversity in the Neotropics. We have submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation (“Evolution of species and signal diversity in the Neotropical electric fish Gymnotus”). See website for further details:
[click on the images below]