Biogeography, Evolution, and Conservation

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

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Understanding the geographic scale at which new species arise in the sea has challenged marine biogeographers for well over a century, and our lab has been investigating the geographic circumstances of speciation in several different systems: continuously-distributed rocky-shore faunas of the north Pacific, sister-species pairs currently separated by the Isthmus of Panama, and anti-tropical species in the eastern Pacific.

In Hawai’i, our lab has started a comparative study of variation in gamete recognition proteins and fertilization success among populations of several species of benthic marine invertebrates.  Many marine species free-spawn by releasing their gametes into the water column such that species-specific mate-recognitions systems function largely through interactions between sperm and egg.  These types of systems provide a useful model for understanding the molecular changes responsible for causing the evolution of reproductive isolation.