Evolutionary diversification, morphological diversity and alpha taxonomy of the carps, minnows and their relatives
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Much of the focus of biology is on observable features (morphology in particular) but the collection of morphological data and its subsequent use in phylogenetic systematics (the study of relationships) has decreased in recent years due to a decline of student training in comparative anatomy and its investigatory techniques. Morphological data still has a major role to play in the study of evolutionary relationships, particularly given the importance of fossils (for which only morphological data can be obtained) in the calibration of molecular clocks to estimate the tempo of evolution. Even now, in the "molecular age" it is important that students continue to receive training in anatomy and the collection of morphological data. Using the Order Cypriniformes (the World's largest group of freshwater fishes) as a model system, I will explore the utility of morphology (including that of the adult and early developmental stages) in inferring phylogentic relationships. I will train students to collect both morphological and molecular data using both traditional and modern techniques and advise how to interpret the results. My research program will not only further our understanding of the morphology and evolutionary relationships of largest group of freshwater fishes (a group of economical and scientific importance) but will also produce highly trained undergraduate and graduate students, capable of tackling future phylogenetic problems. Physical collections (in the form of museum specimens and morphological preparations), detailed morphological information (in the form of images - widely available via the web), peer reviewed publications will be produced as a direct result of my research program.