ORCID Identifier(s)

0000-0002-1629-5726

Graduation Semester and Year

2018

Language

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Quantitative Biology

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Todd Castoe

Abstract

One of the most important and interesting goals in evolutionary biology is to understand the mechanisms generating biodiversity and adaptive novelty. Ever-evolving genomic techniques have served as a catalyst for this work, enabling rapid increases in our knowledge of diverse taxa. By leveraging a combination of phylogeographic, population genetic, and comparative genomic methods, I established two snake systems with unique attributes that showed promise for increasing our understanding of important evolutionary questions related to local adaptation and convergence. Using sampling from several island populations of Boa imperator with similar adaptive phenotypes (e.g., reduced body size and craniofacial morphological shifts), I deduce that unique island phenotypes have evolved independently in at least three populations. Moreover, I explored the contribution of genetic drift and adaptation, as well as idiosyncratic versus convergent molecular evolution, in the evolution of morphological, physiological, and natural history traits shared across distinct island populations. I also investigated ecological shifts related to novel feeding ecology and climate within an invasive population of Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) and found evidence for extremely rapid adaptation of complex physiological traits related to these selective pressures. Collectively, this dissertation exemplifies the power that non-model snake species hold for understanding important evolutionary questions using novel genomics approaches.

Keywords

Evolution, Adaptation, Natural selection, Genomics

Disciplines

Biology | Life Sciences

Comments

Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Included in

Biology Commons

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