Two male Trinidadian guppies, Poecilia reticulata
Some questions are too big to answer with sunfish, so we turned to a very small fish that can be housed and manipulated in the lab much more easily. I was introduced to guppies during my postdoctoral work with Cameron Ghalambor and we are continuing this work at Georgia Southern.
Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) live in freshwater streams and rivers throughout the Caribbean and South America. Their location on the island of Trinidad is unique because they have repeatedly colonized upstream reaches of streams where major predators can't survive. Other differences between these habitats include decreased productivity and prey availability as well as increased population density and competition in new upstream environments. Because of these changes, guppies evolve differences from their downstream counterparts in body size and shape, male color patterns, life history, behaviors, and many more traits. This has happened over and over again, independently in each river, making guppies a natural experiment that can be used to test questions about evolution and adaptation to new environments.
We're interested in how this natural variation in the environment results in changes in swimming and feeding traits, and how these changes influence the ability to coordinate swimming and feeding during prey capture. We've been working on describing natural differences in wild populations as well as breeding these fish in the lab to test questions about how these traits are passed on across generations. This work will tell us more about how integration works and how it affects the ability to survive and adapt to new environments. We're working on publications now, so look for more information on our results soon!
In the meantime, check out some highlights from our collection trip to Trinidad in March 2017 as well as the work we've been doing in the lab since then.
Follow along on our blog as we post updates on these and other projects!