Jason Gallant, assistant professor of Zoology received a $699,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the genomic basis of electric signal diversity in mormyrid electric fish. Electric fish, such as mormyrids, produce weak electric fields for the purposes of communication and navigation through their environments. As part of this three-year research project starting in May 2015, Gallant will leverage his recent discovery of a ‘hybrid zone’ between populations of electric fish with distinct electric signals to identify genes responsible for differences in electric signals. The project will draw on next-generation genomic sequencing technologies, as well the development of new transgenic techniques in electric fish. This research is important because electric discharges are a critical component in the speciation of mormyrid electric fish. Identifying genes responsible for behavioral differences within species will ultimately help biologists understand how changes in behavior can facilitate, or perhaps cause, one species to become multiple species. In connection with the work, Gallant’s laboratory will bring a new educational outreach program, focusing on “forms of energy”, to middle school students in Olivet, MI.

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