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An integrative approach towards the understanding of an adaptive radiation of East African cichlid fishes

Objective

"More than 150 years after the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, the identification of the processes that govern the emergence of novel species remains a fundamental problem to biology. Why is it that some groups have diversified in a seemingly explosive manner, while others have lingered unvaried over millions of years? What are the external factors and environmental conditions that promote organismal diversity? And what is the molecular basis of adaptation and diversification? A key to these and related questions is the comparative study of exceptionally diverse yet relatively recent species assemblages such as Darwin’s finches, the Caribbean anole lizards, or the hundreds of endemic species of cichlid fishes in the East African Great Lakes, which are at the center of this proposal. More specifically, I intend to conduct the so far most thorough examination of a large adaptive radiation, combining in-depth eco-morphological assessments and whole genome sequencing of all members of a cichlid species flock. To this end, I plan to (i) sequence the genomes and transcriptomes of several specimens of each cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika to examine genetic and transcriptional diversity; (ii) apply stable-isotope and stomach-content analyses in combination with underwater transplant experiments and transect surveys to quantitate feeding performances, habitat preferences and natural-history parameters; (iii) use X-ray computed tomography to study phenotypic variation in 3D; and (iv) examine fossils from existing and forthcoming drilling cores to implement a time line of diversification in a cichlid adaptive radiation. This project, thus, offers the unique opportunity to test recent theory- and data-based predictions on speciation and adaptive radiation within an entire biological system – in this case the adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes in Lake Tanganyika."

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/genetics and heredity/genome

Call for proposal

ERC-2013-CoG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-CG - ERC Consolidator Grants

Host institution

UNIVERSITAT BASEL
Address
Petersplatz 1
4051 Basel
Switzerland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 709 566,80
Principal investigator
Walter Salzburger (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Kurt Kamber (Dr.)

Beneficiaries (2)

UNIVERSITAT BASEL
Switzerland
EU contribution
€ 1 709 566,80
Address
Petersplatz 1
4051 Basel
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Walter Salzburger (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Kurt Kamber (Dr.)
UNIVERSITETET I OSLO
Norway
EU contribution
€ 289 671,40
Address
Problemveien 5-7
0313 Oslo
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Maren S. Rasch Onsrud (Dr.)