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January 30, 2014
Howard Mooers | Professor, Geological Sciences | 218 726-7239| | hmooers@d.umn.edu
Cheryl Reitan | Associate Director, External Affairs | 218 726-8996 | creitan@d.umn.edu


UMD’s Sixth Annual Darwin Day Lecture: Evolution of African Fish

Professor Walter Salzburger, from the University of Basel, Switzerland

Professor Walter Salzburger, from the University of Basel, Switzerland

Duluth, Minn.: Have you ever wondered where those brightly colored tropical fish in freshwater aquariums come from? UMD’s annual Darwin Day Lecture, a celebration of Darwin’s birthday and his contributions to science, will be held on Monday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Weber Music Hall. Professor Walter Salzburger, from the Zoological Institute at the University of Basel, Switzerland, will present the lecture, “Evolution in Darwin's dream ponds: The cichlid fishes of the East African Big Lakes.”

Salzburger and his team dive into the great lakes of East Africa with mask, fins and snorkel, to make direct observations of fish behavior. Salzburger conducts state-of-the-art genomic analyses on the fish species to determine their evolutionary history. His research focuses on the evolution of these animals and their adaptations to environments, as well as the generation of ecological, morphological, behavioral, and genetic diversities. His groundbreaking research on the mechanisms that underlie adaptation to an ever-changing environment and the appearance of new species helps explain the remarkable variety of color, shape and lifestyle that embody these fish, and how such similar forms evolved independently, in isolation within the different lakes.

The cichlid fishes of East Africa are a colorful and diverse assemblage of a species which arose during past climate changes. “With more than 2,000 species that have evolved in the last few million years, the species flocks of cichlids in the East African Great Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria represent the most astounding examples of adaptive radiation and explosive speciation,” Salzburger said. Many of these species in Lake Victoria are now threatened with extinction after the introduction of the Nile perch. Salzburger’s research sheds light on their past evolution and possible future.

The program is sponsored by The Large Lakes Observatory, the Water Resources Science Graduate Program, the Department of Geological Sciences, and the Department of Biology, at the University of Minnesota Duluth.


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