Alison L. Gould

PhD, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Evolutionary Ecology of Symbioses

Symbiotic associations with bacteria are found virtually everywhere in nature, but the steps that lead to the evolution of these vital interactions are relatively unknown. The ecology of a host organism can play a key role in the initiation and maintenance of its partnership over host generations. The symbiotically luminous cardinalfish genus Siphamia is comprised of 25 species, but little is known of the biology and ecology of this group. Most Siphamia sp. are habitat specialists, associating closely with a particular substrate, such as sea urchins, branching coral, and crinoids. At the California Academy of Sciences, I am examining how ecological characteristics of these hosts, such as habitat specialization, influence the establishment and maintenance of their symbiotic association with luminous bacteria and how these ecological processes influence the stability of relationship over time.