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Genetic & Devel­op­men­tal Basis of Color in Cichlid Fish

Margaret Sefton – Hector Fellow Axel Meyer

Cichlid fish are well-known for their beauti­ful colors and multi­tude of body shapes. They are found in the East African Rift lakes where they have formed so-called adaptive radia­tions, in which hundreds of new species origi­nated extremely quickly – sometimes within less than 100,000 years. This thesis, under the super­vi­sion of Hector Fellow Axel Meyer, focuses on the genetic basis of adapta­tion and diver­si­fi­ca­tion in cichlids by examin­ing genes involved in color pattern development.

In the first project the regula­tory basis of coloration in several species of cichlids is inves­ti­gated. Using next-gener­a­tion sequenc­ing technolo­gies, it will be searched for genes that might cause the differ­ences between various cichlid species and charac­ter­is­tics that differ between males and females. One of the main research questions concerns the relative roles of struc­tural changes (the emergence of new genes) and regula­tory changes (exist­ing genes used in a new devel­op­men­tal context) during the process of divergence.

The second project, devel­op­ing an exper­i­men­tal frame­work for the in vivo testing of gene function in the Midas cichlid, will use innov­a­tive genome engineer­ing approaches.

By combin­ing a model system from the fields of ecology and evolu­tion­ary biology with techniques adapted from genetic model organ­isms, such as the zebrafish, novel hypothe­ses about the involve­ment of specific genes in the evolu­tion of new species will be tested – something even Darwin could not have dreamed of.

Mechanical Metamaterial

Cichlid fish

Margaret Sefton

Univer­sity of Konstanz

Super­vised by

Prof. Dr.

Axel Meyer


Hector Fellow since 2011Disziplinen Axel Meyer