Julia Dunker SURF SMART
The Downstream Effects of Novelty: Did the Evolution of Scale-Eating Affect Mate Preferences in a Radiation of Bahamian Pupfish?
Novel traits (i.e. new traits or behaviors that allow organisms to perform a new function) have long fascinated biologists. Their evolutionary origins, however, are poorly understood and may involve changes in multiple behaviors and traits. The effects of these changes do not occur in a vacuum and may have downstream effects on other processessuch as the formation of reproductive barriers between groups. This research investigates the relationship between the evolution of novel traits and the formation of reproductive barriers using the scale-eating pupfish. Scale-eating is an example of a novel diet, and involves changes in multiple traits such as aggression, feeding behavior, and jaw morphology. Whether these changes affect the formation of reproductive barriers (i.e. mate preference) between scale-eating pupfish and other pupfish species is still unknown.