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Genomics of marine adaptation and speciation​

Supervisor: Professor Andrea Manica

Project summary:

The emergence of the Central American Isthmus (CAI) ~3 million years ago separated previously continuous populations of marine organisms, setting in play a remarkable natural experiment to study adaptation and speciation. The CAI not only physically separated marine taxa, but caused changes in water circulation, radically modifying the oceanographic characteristics across many environmental axes, including temperature, salinity, PH, and nutrients.

Today, the Caribbean is a warm, oligotrophic and relatively stable water mass, where a broad light spectrum penetrates to substantial depths. By contrast, the CAI brought the Tropical Eastern Pacific under the influence of seasonal upwellings, intense primary productivity and high concentrations of dissolved organic matter.

What the student will be doing:

We are looking for a PhD student with a strong interest in the ecology and evolution of marine organisms to study both how the genomes of species pairs separated by the CAI responded to these radical environmental changes and the role that local adaptation continues to play in reef associated organisms. The project is a collaboration between scientists at Cambridge University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and couples genome assembly with population genomic and demographic inference. Research will determine if there have been predictable changes across taxa correlated with environmental differences in salinity, pH, temperature and tidal and salinity fluctuations between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In addition, by sampling different populations from across the tropical Atlantic and tropical Pacific oceans, the project explores how genomic variation is partitioned relative to current and past environmental landscapes. These data will provide a better understanding of how geology and climate sculpt genomic variation and will inform planning for future changes in the climate and how they might influence species ranges and persistence.


This project falls within the remit for our studentships in Marine Biology.