Davis Lab

Evolution of Deep-Sea Fishes

Research in the lab  focuses on the evolution of fishes that inhabit the deep sea, as the extreme habitats of this environment have produced fascinating evolutionary events among the 4000 - 6000 species of marine fishes that have invaded this realm (e.g., telescopic eyes, bioluminescence, hermaphroditism). We use phylogenetic hypotheses as frameworks to investigate a breadth of evolutionary questions related to organismal diversity and diversification. Our work focuses on exploring a number of evolutionary topics related to fishes that inhabit the deep sea, including; estimating divergence times, temporal changes in diversification rates, character evolution, correlations between speciation rates and evolutionary adaptations, ecological habitat shifts, and biogeography.

New Paper: Evolution of Bioluminescence and Diversification in Lanternfishes and Dragonfishes

Viperfish (Chauliodus). Image by Leo Smith.

Viperfish (Chauliodus). Image by Leo Smith.

Our open-access paper investigating the evolution of species-specific bioluminescent structures in the deep-sea lineages of lanternfishes (Myctophiformes) and dragonfishes (Stomiiformes) was recently published in the journal Marine Biology. We show, for the first time, that deep-sea fishes that possess species-specific bioluminescent structures (e.g., lanternfishes, dragonfishes) that may be used for communication are diversifying into new species at a more rapid rate than deep-sea fishes that utilize bioluminescence in ways that would not promote isolation of populations (e.g., camouflage, predation). This work adds to our understanding of how life thrives and evolution shaped present-day biodiversity in the deep sea, the largest and arguably least explored habitat on earth.

Davis, M.P., Holcroft, N.I., Wiley, E.O., Sparks, J.S., and Smith, W.L. (2014). Species-Specific Bioluminescence Facilitates Speciation in the Deep SeaMarine Biology. DOI: 10.1007/s00227-014-2406-x.

Blue Lanternfish (Tarletonbeania crenularis). Image by Matthew P. Davis.

Blue Lanternfish (Tarletonbeania crenularis). Image by Matthew P. Davis.

St. Cloud State University, 720 4th Ave South, Wick Science Building, St. Cloud, MN 56301. © MP Davis 2016