January 16, 2017

Behaviour, morphology and genetics of cichlid fish undergoing ecological speciation

Behaviour, morphology and genetics of cichlid fish undergoing ecological speciation 400 x 400 px

We are seeking a PhD student to work as part of an interdisciplinary team, based at Bangor University, with collaborators in the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge.

The project will focus on characterizing behavioural, physiological and morphological traits of cichlid fishes under laboratory conditions. These fish have been bred in the research aquarium at Bangor, by crossing individuals of a pair of forms in the process of undergoing ecological speciation, through adaptation of part of the population of a shallow water ancestor to the deeper waters of a tiny crater lake in southern Tanzania.

We have already sequenced the genomes of the extreme forms and identified the genetic differences between them. We have designed a genotyping array to score polymorphisms in 50 lab-held fish and bred from these to produce hybrid and pure-bred offspring. We plan to correlate these genetic polymorphisms with behavioural traits such as courtship signal traits and preferences, foraging efficiencies under different lighting regimes, preference for habitat-related cues likely to be correlated with depth. We also plan to test for physiological traits associated with the visual adaptations to different water depths and light spectra, and for morphological traits likely to be associated with differences in diets and habitat.

This project will include training in all of these techniques, along with basic molecular work, such as microsatellite paternity testing and preparation of samples for genotyping arrays. There will also be opportunities to help supervise further ecological sampling and to participate in teaching and dissemination work in Tanzania in local fisheries researchers and with Operation Wallacea.

Students will participate in the structured programme of the NERC Envision scheme, which will include training in experimental design, data analysis, presentation and generic skills, and will have opportunity to carry out basic teaching activities and attend appropriate UK and European conferences.

Eligibility: Applicants should have the equivalent of a UK Honours degree at 2.1 level or above in a subject such as Biology, Genetics or Zoology.

For further details, please contact Professor George Turner