Trent Sanborn, “Patterns of Gene Expression in Lake Malawi Cichlids Raised in Turbulent versus Calm Conditions”
Mentor: Michael Pauers, College of General Studies – Mathematics & Natural Sciences
The cichlid fishes of Lake Malawi in eastern Africa are famous among biologists for the speed at which they diversified, as well as for the vast number of species that resulted from this diversification. Here we investigate one possible mechanism for this diversification, changes in gene expression as a result of morphological change during adaptation to a new habitat. We used the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) to compare the expression of protein-encoding genes in three tissues (snout, fin, and epaxial muscle) harvested from two species of Labeotropheus (L. fuelleborni and L. trewavasae) that were raised in two distinct conditions, wave-like turbulence and a control condition in which there was no turbulence. These results could help explain how adaptation can induce morphological change by influencing the degree to which genes important in the physical structuring of the body are expressed.