Blogs & Videos: Fishes

Brazil 2012 Fieldwork Diary Entry 6: Sharks Patrol These Waters

In my last entry, I noted that geological evidence suggests that some of the rocks that we're working in were formed near the shore of an inland sea, but that the environment became increasingly terrestrial as time passed, with some of the younger rocks representing sand dunes. Over the past two days, most of the fossils we discovered were preserved in the rocks that formed along the shoreline and are the remains of aquatic animals.

Shark Genetic Conservation Student Video

This video was created by the 2011 DNA Residency Team Shark, Tom Champion (educator, Naperville North), Griffin Harris (student, New Trier High), and Prahi Thirkateh (Naperville North High).  They outline population bottlenecks and discuss the problems that changes in population size might be for the conservation of sharks.

Aaron Olsen defends his dissertation proposal

One exciting and rewarding part of our jobs as curators at The Field Museum is having the opportunity to advise graduate students.  I’ve been a member of the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago for more than 14 years.  All doctoral students need an advisor and then he/she has to form a committee of additional professors/curators who will advise on the dissertation/thesis.  Last Thursday, I went down to the U of C campus to hear Aaron Olsen defend is doctoral dissertation proposal having been asked to be a member of his committee. 

2011 REU Intern Elizaveth Everman

Tracing the Evolution of Venom in Scorpionfishes and Waspfishes

ELIZABETH EVERMAN Junior Biology major at William Jewell College REU Mentor: Dr. Leo Smith (Curator, Zoology, Fishes) Symposium Presentation Title: The phylogeny of scorpionfishes and stonefishes (Teleostei:  Scorpaenoidei) and its implications for the evolution of venom

Biomechanics and Evolution of Fish Locomotion

A major research focus of my laboratory is the locomotor biology of fishes that generate forward propulsion by oscillating and undulating the fins. We ask the questions: How are fishes designed to swim efficiently and with such high maneuverability? How are the muscle-tendon-bone systems that provide thrust coordinated by neuromotor control? How has locomotion evolved in complex 3-dimensional coral reef environments? Techniques used in locomotor biomechanics include kinematics, electromyography, sonomicrometery, and modeling of the biomechanics and hydrodynamics of locomotion.

Biomechanics and Evolution of Fish Feeding

Fish feeding biology is a well-established model system for the study of biomechanics, physiology, and comparative diversity. In this lab, we are developing biomechanical models of complex feeding movements in coral reef fishes to test new hypotheses for the mechanism of jaw opening and upper jaw protrusion in fishes. Models include four mechanisms of feeding mechanics in seven labrid fish species (Westneat 1990; 1994), the highlight of which is the spectacular jaw mechanism of the sling-jaw wrasse (Westneat 1991). In addition to proposing novel feeding mechanisms, this research allowed an evolutionary analysis of biomechanics in fishes (Westneat, 1995).

Phylogenetic Systematics of Coral Reef Fishes

A major challenge in biology is the resolution of phylogenetic relationships among diverse clades of fishes inhabiting coral reefs around the world.  Collections are obtained through an active field program of visiting coral reefs in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Pacific Islands, as well as the Caribbean, collecting fishes using SCUBA diving, nets and working with fishermen.  Phylogenetic systematics is the generation of molecular and morphological data from those collections, followed by large-scale data analysis to yield phylogenetic trees, which represent our best estimate of the family tree of relationships among fish species. Generating phylogenetic trees is one of the most useful and exciting areas in biology today.