Students study speciation processes in Bahamian fishes
RELEASED: June 21, 2007
DANVILLE, KY—It's common knowledge that when classes end for the summer, Centre students don't stop learning and exploring. And this summer, two Centre students studied speciation processes in Bahamian pupfishes during their collaborative research with two Centre professors.
Although this particular species of pupfish is widely distributed, the "bulldog" form of the species has only been found in the inland lakes of San Salvador island in the Bahamas. Other researchers have suggested that the bulldog and normal forms of this fish are in the early stages of speciation, which makes this system an especially interesting research topic. Students working with the Bartons in previous collaborative research projects have noted that the two forms of the species may be both reproductively and morphologically unique.
Paranthan and Warner spent their time running behavioral experiments to discern if males show any mate preference, which would reinforce the incipient speciation hypothesis. "Our two sets of experiments, with six replicates each, suggest that there's a mating discrimination present, as the males tend to want to mate with females of their own morphs," Paranthan says.The preliminary results of the behavioral experiments performed by the two students suggest that the males preferred their own morph.
In addition to the behavioral experiments, Paranthan and Warner studied the early morphological development of the jaw using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). The morphological differences that distinquish the bulldog and the normal forms of this pupfish species are evident in one day old larvae. These SEM results also reinforce the incipient speciation hypothesis. "However, there is far and away a lot more data to be analyzed before we can come to any conclusion," Warner says.
"This research opportunity was a truly enjoyable and educational experience at the same time," Paranthan says. "Chase and I were very fortunate to be selected for this program."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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