Collaborative Research: Human-Induced Phenotypic variation in an Endemic Livebearing Fish Grant

Collaborative Research: Human-Induced Phenotypic variation in an Endemic Livebearing Fish .


  • This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).One of the most critical threats to biological diversity is the habitat fragmentation and degradation caused by human activities. Significant advances in our understanding of the ecological effects of human activities have been made in recent years, however the evolutionary impacts of human-induced environmental changes are still largely unknown. This research program will investigate the effects of habitat fragmentation in a group of small fish in the Bahamas. The work combines field surveys, analysis of body form/musculature, whole-organism performance trials, laboratory-rearing experiments, and DNA studies to examine whether ecosystem fragmentation drives predictable and rapid evolution of body form and swimming performance.Estuary fragmentation is widespread in the Bahamas. This fragmentation results from construction of roads without effective tidal flow-conveyance structures, such as bridges or culverts. The resulting rapid and dramatic changes to these coastal systems leads to predictions of substantially altered natural selection regimes for resident organisms. This study will use evolutionary theory to develop and test predictions regarding changes in species traits following fragmentation, centering on endemic fishes, Bahamas Gambusia. The work will test the predictability of evolution in the face of anthropogenic impacts, as well as the ability of ecological restoration efforts to restore previous evolutionary trajectories. This project will integrate science and education in a variety of ways. In addition to training at least seven undergraduate students, the work will create a new outreach program, Everyday Evolution. This program will be integrated with the science curriculum of a Bahamian high school, hopefully initiating a longer-term, and more wide-reaching educational module designed to teach the fundamentals of ecology and evolution to high-school students. With an understanding of evolution so low for much of the general public, there is no better time to demonstrate how natural processes can lead to rapid evolution, and how evolutionary ecologists rigorously test well-articulated hypotheses.

date/time interval

  • August 1, 2009 - July 31, 2012

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 0842196