Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Environment's Effects On Evolution of Survival Traits

ScienceDaily (Feb. 11, 2012) — Advances in studying genes mean that scientists in evolutionary developmental biology or "evo-devo" can now explain more clearly than ever before how bats got wings, the turtle got its shell and blind cave fish lost their eyes, says University of Massachusetts Amherst evolutionary biologist Craig Albertson.

He recently won a five-year, $625,000 Faculty Early Career Development grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the evo-devo of jaws in cichlid fish, tropical freshwater relatives of the tilapia. These highly adaptable cousins of sunfish, usually medium-sized and looking a bit like perch, have a phenomenal ability to undergo evolutionary change. They've developed 1,000 new species in Lake Malawi, Africa, over the past million years, a far faster pace than usual for other vertebrates in a similar period.
The NSF grant is the foundation's most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of both.

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