How fast do organisms evolve in nature and what patterns of change are commonly observed? This project addresses both of these fundamental questions using an integrated approach to examine patterns of morphological change in a large group of non-vertebrate taxa (scallops). A primary goal is to use DNA sequence data to reconstruct the relationships among nearly 200 scallop species. Cutting edge, three-dimensional scanning technology will then be used to measure differences in shell shape (which relate to scallop ecology), and the tree of relationships among species will be utilized to retrace the history of morphological diversification in the group. Patterns of repeated evolution (convergence) will be identified, and the rate of morphological evolution will be compared among groups to determine how fast organisms change in different ecological settings.
This project provides considerable educational experiences for undergraduate and graduate students, including research excursions to the Smithsonian Institution, reciprocal training between laboratories with distinct research emphases, and a research-in-education exchange that includes students from a small college and students attending a large research university. The project will employ six persons, including two graduate students, and two undergraduates. Every effort will be made to communicate research findings via articles and public presentations, all of which will include student participants.