2004 – Ph.D., University of California, Davis
My lab studies the evolution of complex morphological phenotypes. Although we work on a large number of aquatic organisms and phenotypes ranging from pectoral fin swimming in Lake Malawi Cichlids to anti-predator defenses in snails, our research is largely concentrated on the feeding apparatus of fish. The jaws of fishes offer an ideal organismal phenotype for examining the forces that structure functional adaptation in a complex system. Within cichlid fishes for example, a huge number of historically independent and convergent trophic phenotypes have arisen through modifications of conserved musculoskeletal elements that comprise their highly kinetic skull. This replicated evolutionary framework provides the power to address broad questions concerning the mechanisms underlying the evolution of ecological novelty.
In both the field and in the lab, we experimentally determine performance capabilities in live organisms to experimentally test if phenotypes we model as simple machines like levers or force-resisting structures exhibit mechanical tradeoffsin vivo. This approach allows us to examine the functional consequences of both predatory abilities and anti-predatory defenses to quantitatively elucidate the mechanistic properties of adaptations in predator-prey interactions. Our work also integrates phylogenetic reconstruction and population genetics to provide evolutionary maps for understanding when and how traits arise. These evolutionary studies that often lie at the interface of micro- and macroevolution allow us to place phenotypic novelties that arise plastically and/or have a genetic basis within a comparative framework. Currently, we are working to incorporate studies of gene expression and quantitative genetics into microevolutionary analyses in order to understand how developmental genetic changes occur within populations where functional novelties arise.
- Parnell, N.F., C.D. Hulsey, and J.T. Streelman. 2012. The genetic basis of a complex functional system. Evolution. (in press).
- Holzman, R., D.C. Collar, S.A. Price, C.D. Hulsey, R.C. Thomson, and P.C. Wainwright. 2012. Biomechanical trade-offs bias rates of evolution in the feeding apparatus of fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Society (London) Series B. 279: 1287-1292.
- Hulsey, C.D. and H. López-Fernández. 2011. Chapter 17: Historical biogeography of the fishes of Nuclear Central America. in Historical Biogeography of Neotropical Freshwater Fishes
- Hulsey, C.D., B.P. Keck, and P.R. Hollingsworth Jr. 2011. Species tree estimation and the historical biogeography of heroine cichlids. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 58: 124-131.
- Fraser, G.J., C.D. Hulsey, R.F. Bloomquist, K. Uyesugi, N.R. Manley, and J.T. Streelman. 2009. An ancient gene network is co-opted for teeth on old and new jaws. PLOS Biology. 7: 2