A tale of two fishes: how standing genetic diversity influences species responses to environmental change

How can species respond to environmental change?

If you’re a somewhat avid (or even cursory) reader of The G-CAT, you may remember my wrap-up post at the conclusion of my PhD in 2020 which described the various chapters of my thesis. Well, I’m pleased to announce that data chapter 2 of that thesis – on the comparative phylogeography of two threatened Australian freshwater fishes – has just been published in the journal BMC Ecology and Evolution. It’s a pretty complex paper which tackles genetic diversity, phylogenetics, demographic history, species distribution models and how these interact together to understand the evolutionary history of these species in a comparative framework. Feel free to check it out (it’s open access and free to read!) here.

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Shifting lakes, coastlines and mountains: how millions of years of environmental changes shaped the evolution of a little fish

The roles of aridification and sea level changes in the diversification and persistence of freshwater fish lineages

The process of publishing science is a lengthy one – there are many rounds of revisions, assessments, and review required before a paper can be published. With that, I’m very proud to announce that the first paper from my PhD has recently been published in the journal Molecular Ecology. This paper is a collection of a lot of complex analyses, and addressing some relatively complicated biogeographical questions, so I’ve decided to provide a simplified summary here.

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Incomplete lineage sorting through Pachinko – a visual analogy

Reconstructing evolutionary history

Unravelling the evolutionary history of organisms – one of the main goals of phylogenetic research – remains a challenging prospect due to a number of theoretical and analytical aspects. Particularly, trying to reconstruct evolutionary patterns based on current genetic data (the most common way phylogenetic trees are estimated) is prone to the erroneous influence of some secondary factors. One of these is referred to as ‘incomplete lineage sorting’, which can have a major effect on how phylogenetic relationships are estimated and the statistical confidence we may have around these patterns. Today, we’re going to take a look at incomplete lineage sorting (shortened to ILS for brevity herein) using a game-based analogy – a Pachinko machine. Or, if you’d rather, the same general analogy also works for those creepy clown carnival games, but I prefer the less frightening alternative.

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Overview of 2020

As you may have gathered, The G-CAT has been significantly less active in this our most Cursed year. There are a number of reasons for that – not just the overall disaster that has been world events – including the fact that this was the last year of my PhD. I’m delighted to announce that now, after ~3.5 years of hard work, I am officially Dr. Buckley (not Dr. G-CAT, as I may have led you to believe)!

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In accordance with evolution: discordance and concordance in phylogeography

The nature of phylogeography

Studying the interaction of environmental changes and species evolution is a critical component for predicting how species might – or might not – respond to new environmental stressors induced by climate change. We can study this at a variety of different levels and using many different data types, ranging from ‘traditional’ ecological studies which correlate phenotypic changes and environment to more narrower studies of ecological genetics and how allelic frequencies change in association with environmental gradients.

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