Phylogenetic Systematics of Coral Reef Fishes
posted December 01st, 2010
A major challenge in biology is the resolution of phylogenetic relationships among diverse clades of fishes inhabiting coral reefs around the world. Collections are obtained through an active field program of visiting coral reefs in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Pacific Islands, as well as the Caribbean, collecting fishes using SCUBA diving, nets and working with fishermen. Phylogenetic systematics is the generation of molecular and morphological data from those collections, followed by large-scale data analysis to yield phylogenetic trees, which represent our best estimate of the family tree of relationships among fish species. Generating phylogenetic trees is one of the most useful and exciting areas in biology today.
Objectives: We are exploring the phylogenetic relationships of several major lineages of coral reef fishes in order to understand the causes and consequences of high biodiversity, molecular evolution, and the evolution of structure and function in these diverse groups. We use the phylogenies generated from both morphology and molecules to look at the evolution of characters such as biomechanics of the jaws for feeding, and functional morphology of locomotor structures.
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Phylogenetic trees for all of life is one of the grand challenges of science today.
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