Jason Weckstein, PhD, staff scientist, Field Museum of Natural History
BEES Ornithology interview research seminar: "Phylogenies of toucans and lice: What can they tell us about correlates of diversification?"
Abstract: One of the central goals of evolutionary biology is to understand the forces drive the process of speciation and diversification of organisms. We know that both ecology and geography play a role in the process of diversification and speciation. However, the relative importance of these two forces might vary. Phylogenies, which are reconstructions of both the pattern and timing of speciation, provide a powerful tool for these kinds of problems in evolutionary biology. My research focuses broadly on using molecular phylogenetic data to ask whether particular ecological or geographic factors are important in speciation. I am also interested in using ancestral character reconstructions to understanding whether morphological similarity between organisms is due to convergence or shared ancestry. In my talk I will sketch out three of my projects that use phylogenies to delve into these kinds of questions about diversification and speciation. First we’ll explore how a molecular phylogeny can give us insights into the evolution of geographic ranges. Second, we’ll explore how a phylogeny can give us insights into the evolutionary history of coloration patterns of the Ramphastos toucans. These toucans are interesting because sympatric pairs of Ramphastos are strikingly similar to one another in coloration patterns. However, these sympatric congeners differ in other morphological characteristics suggesting that the extreme similarity in coloration involves convergence and potentially mimicry. Third, we’ll explore how both ecology and geography can be important in structuring patterns of speciation. In this case we will focus on my work on host parasite associations and will use molecular phylogenies of toucans and their parasitic chewing lice to reconstruct the evolutionary history of their associations.
The previously scheduled seminar, by Noga Neeman, BEES PhD candidate, will be rescheduled for a later date.