Collaborative Research: FishLife: genealogy and traits of living and fossil vertebrates that never left the water
This project will develop and apply a unified framework for studying the evolution of all fishes, including lampreys, sharks, and the coral reef, deep sea and freshwater fishes. This work will illuminate the genealogical relationships (phylogeny), evolutionary timing, and mechanisms for the origin and maintenance of the world's diversity of fishes, including the most important food and aquarium fishes. The project will contribute to community-driven scientific efforts, to student training, to web content and application development, and to public outreach. All fish specimens, specimen and DNA data, and analytical results obtained will be made publicly available through a dynamic and open structure that complies with established standards to facilitate wide accessibility to the broader scientific and non-scientific communities. High school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral student training are central activities for this project. Social media outreach and training will provide diverse professional development opportunities as well. A fish species identification application for smartphones based on image data (FishSnap) will be developed and made freely available to the public to allow accurate identification of selected groups of fishes. Outcomes of this project will form part of a new public exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History to highlight the value of specimen collections at natural history museums. This integrative project will combine genomic, paleontological, anatomical, functional, ecological, and comparative approaches. The research team blends strengths in collections-based research on fishes, molecular and morphological phylogenetics, bioinformatics, and comparative analyses, allowing them to synthesize big data sets to resolve the phylogeny of all described fish species and conduct evolutionary analysis of key traits. Time-calibrated trees will be used to reveal diversification patterns of the major groups. Image analysis, morphometrics, and phenomic data will enable the discovery of evolutionary patterns in size, shape, and biomechanical function across thousands of species.