MSU Electric Fish Lab


Principal InvestigatorPI


Associate Professor
Room 138 Giltner Hall
Department of Integrative Biology
Michigan State University

517-884-7756 (office)

I am an evolutionary biologist that studies the genomic basis of convergently evolved behavioral phenotypes in weakly electric fish, and currently serve as an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at Michigan State University.

Vertebrates have evolved a multitude of adaptive traits to exploit resources in the air, on the land, and in the water. Many charismatic, uniquely vertebrate traits such as fins, limbs, feathers, teeth evolved once long ago, and enabled profound diversification. While the evolution of novel traits has led to a rich tapestry of species, the single origin of these traits presents a statistical dilemma for evolutionary biologists: they are single replicate ‘experiments’ that lack power to resolve how and why novel traits evolve. For this reason, my research program focuses on electric fish, vertebrate species that have independently evolved electric organs six times for communication, navigation, and sometimes predation and defense.

Two lineages, the weakly electric fish from South America and Africa have evolved electrogenesis and electroreception in parallel. These two groups exhibit convergent evolution at every biological level of organization: from genes to ecosystems. This creates an outstanding opportunity to explore the connection between genotype and phenotype in the context of a naturally occurring replicate experiment. Presently, I leverage these convergent evolutionary outcomes to tackle three broad questions: (1) How do changes in the genome lead to the evolution of novel phenotypes? (2) What are the evolutionary forces that influence this process? (3) What are the consequences of this interaction for the evolution of biodiversity?

Jason's papers