The Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES) offers an 
NWO-funded PhD position for a project on the role of phenotypic plasticity 
in speciation, using African cichlid fish as a model system.

Phenotypic plasticity is a key determinant of organismal performance, 
allowing rapid adjustment to environmental variation. In this project, we 
aim to investigate plasticity’s role in species divergence. On the one 
hand, plasticity may promote evolutionary differentiation by facilitating 
range expansion. On the other hand, plastic responses will weaken selection 
for genetic change, hampering adaptive evolution.

We study the role of visual plasticity in the evolution of cichlid fish 
species diversity. Variation in colour vision, among individuals, 
populations and species, is determined by both genetic factors and 
phenotypic plasticity. Since visually mediated behaviours influence both 
mating behaviour and ecological performance in cichlids, plasticity in 
colour vision could be important in divergent evolution. The PhD student 
will conduct experiments and analyses addressing the consequences of visual 
plasticity for both 1) macro-evolutionary processes and 2) individual 
behaviour and fitness. Approaches include behavioural experiments, 
molecular analysis of visual pigments (sequencing, qPCR, HPLC) and 
phylogenetic comparative analyses.

For more information and online application, please visit

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