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Survival of the Smallest Vice President Research and International, Office of the 2009-11-30

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nullInullDInullRnullInull RnullnullARnull1nullnull  nullnullnull Rnullnull OF nullnullnullnullnullnull nullnullA nullOFFnullnull OF nullnull Vnullnull PRnullnullDnullnullRnullnullnullARnull nullnullnullnullnullRnullAnullOnullAnullTo the untrained eye, threenullpine stickleback nullh may seem remarkably unremarkable. nullut to nullrof. nullolph nullhluter and his nullschoolnullof young evolutionary biologists, these tiny nullh may hold the key to some of the most fundamental nullesnull tions on nullrth and could inform nulllds such as biomedicine.nulleasuring null–null centimetres long, sticklebacks originated in the ocean but began populating freshwater lakes and streams following the last ice age.  nuller the past null,000 years – a relatively short time span in evolutionary terms – freshwater sticklebacks have lost their  bony lateral plates, or nullarmour,nullin these new environments.nullile sticklebacks are common across the northern hemisphere, the highest diversity of species are right here in nullC. The glacial freshwater lakes along the coastal regions are a hotbed of speciation in motion, a sort of nulltnullspot for evolutionary biologists, according to nullhluter, who holds a Canada nullesearch Chair in nullvolution  and nullcology. nullese nullC. lakes formed about null,000 years ago, which puts an upper age limit to the freshwater sticklebacks there, making them some of the youngest species on nullrth,nullhe says. nullnullat’s enullraordinary is that while these lakes are home to both marine and freshwater sticklebacks, they rarely crossnullreed in nature despite similar physiology and living in close pronullmity.nullThis home nullld advantage, coupled with a worldnullenowned biodiversity research cluster and uninulle facilities, has attracted a slew of outstanding graduate students and postnulloctoral fellows to the nullhluter nullb. nully recreating natural stickleback environments in nullhluter’s Cnullnullunded enullerimental ponds and interbreeding the marine and freshwater species at the nulliodiversity nullesearch Centre, the members of the nullhluter nullb are honing in on the factors – both environmental and genetic – that drive the emergence of new species. The results of the studentnullriven research are impressive. They’ve not only proven that environment can change mating preferences, but also that the reverse is true: a recent study by former postnulloctoral fellow nulluke nullarmon – now a faculty member at the nullniversity of nulldaho – is also showing the strong evidence of speciation impacting the environment in return. nulld nullhnullcandidate nullowan nullarrett recently identinulld a nullwanderlust genenull– the nullst time a gene has been associated with a specinull behaviour in sticklebacks.nulliven the shared genetic heritage among all vertebrates, the discovery of stickleback genes associated with behaviours are sure to have profound implications in analogous research in humans,nullsays nullatt nullnegard, a postnulloctoral fellow who received funding from the null nullational nullience nulloundation to work with nullhluter on the genetic links to mating behaviours.nulle fundamental nullestion we’re asking is why there are so many species on nullrth and why they are so dinullrent,nullsays nullhluter. nullnulld along the way we’re nullding intriguing answers that are leading to even more intriguing prospects of knowledge.nullThe nullC nullnullerimental nullonds were funded by the Canada nulloundation for nullnnovation, the nullC. nullovernment and the nulllusson nullund. nullhluter’s research is supported by nullatural nullience and nullesearch Council of Canada and the Canada nullesearch  Chairs program.surnullinullnullnull nullF nulle s nullnullnull esnullPhoto > Jack nullolnullord Photo > nullrek nullan

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