Collaborative Research: A Comprehensive Multigene Phylogeny of Chipmunks (Rodentia: Tamias): Testing Divergence with Gene Flow
Determining the frequency and impact of hybridization during animal speciation remains a central issue in evolutionary biology. This project will investigate hybridization and the evolution of chipmunks in western North America. Chipmunks represent an excellent study system due to their obvious segregation into distinct habitats, and resulting narrow zones of contact between species. In addition, they are characterized by differentiation of reproductive anatomy between species, suggesting reproductive isolation. The investigators have identified numerous instances where gene flow occurs between ecologically and anatomically distinct species, suggesting hybridization may be important during the evolution of this and other groups. The investigators will test predictions of divergence with gene flow using population-level genetic markers and will also estimate a phylogeny of the genus using a diverse array of molecular data sets.
This project represents a collaboration between an EPSCoR-supported research university and a large public natural history museum, thus providing numerous opportunities for the dissemination of information to the scientific community and the general public. Important training opportunities for students in field biology, molecular biology, phylogenetic methods, and computational biology will be achieved. The project also includes a significant collecting effort and will therefore contribute to biological infrastructure represented by natural history collections.