Evolution and Genetics of Individual Variation

Why are organisms so enormously diverse? Even indviduals in the same species that live in the same environment vary greatly in physical traits and at a genetic level, and we do not know why. My lab group uses evolutionary, ecological, genetic and genomic analyses to understand this genetic and phenotypic diversity.

Our focus is on ecologically important features of animals such as size, color, lifespan, and social behavior. We try to understand the causes and consequences of individual and genetic variation in these traits. Our goal is to understand how both adaptive and non-adaptive evolutionary processes shape the diversity that persists within natural populations of organisms. We study a variety of organisms, but focus on those that can be examined in nature and in experimental analysis. Currently, members of the lab work on guppies, mosquitofish, sailfin mollies, fruit flies and centipedes.

Current projects include studies of the effects of social behavior on the maintenance of genetic variation in guppies and mosquitofish, genetic and social regulation of alternative life histories in sailfin mollies, and genomic analysis of poeciliid fish and fruit flies to identify genes that underlie within-population diversity. To learn more, follow the links at the left side of this page or e-mail Dr. Hughes.