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From Darwin to DNA: The Genetic Basis of Adaptive Morphology and Behavior

Fairfield Osborn Memorial Lecture

  • This event already took place in February 2012
  • Caspary Auditorium

Event Details

Friday Lecture Series
Hopi Hoekstra, Ph.D., Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, curator of mammals, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
Speaker bio(s)

One of the main goals of biology is to understand how and why diversity is generated and maintained in the wild. To address the goal, Dr. Hoekstra and her colleagues have been studying natural populations of oldfield mice (Peromyscus polionotus). She will discuss two of their remarkable adaptations: coat-color variation and stereotyped burrowing behavior. First, while mice in the mainland have typical dark brown coats, mice that have recently colonized Florida's coastal dunes and barrier islands have evolved a unique light color pattern to blend into the brilliant white-sand beaches. Dr. Hoekstra will present data, from both the lab and the field, in which she and her colleagues experimentally demonstrate that color matters for survival in the wild, and identify the genes and developmental process responsible for color variation in these mice. Second, she will demonstrate how her lab is using this same integrative approach to study behavioral evolution, in particular to characterize differences in burrowing behavior in the field and in the lab, identify the genetic basis of burrow size and shape variation, and understand how differences in mouse behavior lead to differences in burrow characteristics. Together, these results allow her team to retrace the evolutionary path of adaptive change in the wild, from morphology to behavior, which teach us new lessons about the evolution of diversity along the way.

Dr. Hoekstra received a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Washington in 2000. From 2000 to 2003 she was a Ruth L. Kirschstein NIH-NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, San Diego. She was appointed an associate professor there in 2003. In 2007 she joined Harvard University as John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Natural Sciences and curator of mammals at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. In 2010 she was appointed Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology. From 2010 to 2011 she was honorary senior lecturer in the department of genetics, evolution and environment at University College London.

The Rockefeller University and the Wildlife Conservation Society established this lectureship in 1970 to commemorate Fairfield Osborn, an American naturalist, notable for his involvement and contributions to many environmental organizations. In 1965, Osborn and Detlev W. Bronk, then president of The Rockefeller University, created a joint Institute for Research in Animal Behavior, the forerunner of the university's present-day Field Research Center, located in Millbrook, N.Y.

Open to
Leslie Vossall
Refreshments, 3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m., Abby Lounge
Robert Houghtaling
(212) 327-8072
Robert Houghtaling
(212) 327-8072

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