There are somewhere between 2 and 10 million living species on earth – possibly more. What processes create this incredible diversity? The deep and difficult question of how new species form has challenged biologists for a long time. This question is at the heart of my research program. A unifying theme of my work is to understand how an organisms’ behavior generates selection that results in diversification, and how diverse behavior itself evolves under the influence of multiple forms of selection. Behavioral traits are thus the primary phenotypes of interest, but can also be the agents of evolutionary change.
The Braasch Lab addresses fundamental questions about the genomic and developmental basis of major transitions during the course of vertebrate evolution. We study genomic and morphological novelties in vertebrates at the levels of genome structure, gene family dynamics, and gene regulation and combine comparative genomics with analyses of molecular evolution and developmental genetic approaches using zebrafish (Danio rerio), spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) and other fishes as model systems.