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Lauren O'Connell

Harvard University
Northwest Labs 458.40
52 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 2138
United States


Taxa Studied: Invertebrate Animals, Vertebrate Animals
Techniques Employed: Degenerate PCR, Quantitative PCR (qPCR), Sanger Sequencing, Solexa (Illumina) Sequencing, Bioinformatics/Sequence Analysis, In Situ Hybridization, Antibody Staining, Sectioning for Histology, Confocal Microscopy
Research Description: Our research focuses on understanding the genomic contributions to phenotypic diversity within ecologically relevant traits. We use poison dart frogs (family Dendrobatidae) as a model system for understanding the genomic contributions to biological diversity, as they display tremendous variation in behavior and color pattern morphology. Poison dart frog species vary in mating strategies and parental care systems. It is rare in the animal to kingdom to find many parental care systems (especially male-only parental care) within closely related species. In many of the Dendrobates species, only males care for offspring, while other species display female-only care or biparental care. Moreover, there are also population differences in parental care strategies within a species. We are interested in the genetic, neural, physiological, and ecological traits driving these differences between and within species as well as how variation in parental care effects offspring development, behavior, and genomic architecture/gene expression. Aposomatic signaling advertises the poison dart frog unpalatable taste to predators, yet there can be many different color morphs within a species, representing an evolutionary paradox. We are also interested in the genomic contributes to color patterns within species as well and how the pleiotropic genes underlying color patterns influence behavior.
Lab Web Page: http://oconnell.fas.harvard.edu
Willing to Host Undergraduates: YES
Actively Seeking Undergraduates: YES
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