Division of Fishes Research
Curatorial and staff research endeavors have always been intimately tied to the collections that they made. Much of our early collection research effort was derived from the active field programs of the curatorial staff. Seth E. Meek (1897-1914) pioneered the study of Neotropical freshwater fishes. Loren P. Woods (1941-1978; left in image of Coelacanth [FMNH 76057]) published on and amassed large and important collections of marine fishes from the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Karel Liem (1968-1972; center in Coelacanth image) was an associated fish researcher in the Division of Vertebrate Anatomy who did his pioneering work on experimental functional morphology on leaf fishes while at The Field Museum. Robert K. Johnson (1972-1986) focused his research and collection efforts on mesopelagic fishes and shorefishes from Belize and Honduras. Donald J. Stewart (1978-1985) and Barry Chernoff (1987-2002) rejuvenated the Museum's early Neotropical focus, publishing on diverse groups ranging from silversides to armored catfishes and tetras. These massive collection and research efforts by our previous curators, staff, students, and associates have led to countless publications exploring the systematics and taxonomy of fishes. In recent years, the curatorial and student research programs have expanded into cutting-edge studies of fish morphometrics, functional morphology, molecular phylogenetics, and venomology.
Mark Westneat's (1991-present) research program focuses on marine andfreshwater fishes, the biomechanics of feeding, locomotion andrespiration in animals ranging from insects to fishes to birds, and the synthesis of evolutionary trees with biomechanical traits to better understand evolution. Inparticular his recent research has focused on understanding the biodiversity, function and history of life on coral reefs and the use of large evolutionary trees in combination with biodiversity databases such as EOL to integrate information across disciplines.
Leo Smith's (2007-present) research program focuses on the evolutionary biology of marine and freshwater fishes. In particular, he is interested in the large-scale phenomona that have shaped the history and diversification of fishes in both geographic space and geologic time. He uses a combination of phylogenetic trees, detailed anatomical and genomic analyses, and comparative and diversification analyses to understand the evolution of fishes. In particular, he focuses on the evolution of anatomical and behavioral specializations associated with the evolution of venom, bioluminescence, feeding, and mating. For more information see Leo's website.
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