Welcome to the Montooth Lab
We use physiology to link genomic variation to organismal fitness in order to understand...
how physiology evolves to fit organisms to their ecologies, &
how evolution shapes genetic and biochemical pathways underlying physiological change.
The pathways of physiology provide systems of genes that link genetic variation and divergence to whole-organism physiological performance traits, such as development rate, metabolic rate, flight velocity, ethanol tolerance and stress responses. These pathways provide our framework for taking an integrative approach to linking genes to their evolutionarily and ecologically significant function.
Drosophila have a unique ecology, acquiring nutrient resources in habitats ranging from desert cactus rots to ethanol-rich vineyards and using these resources to fuel metabolism during energetically challenging feats, such as larval growth, pathogen defense, and flight. D. melanogaster also has an interesting natural history, expanding its ancestral range out of the tropics of Africa to inhabit temperate latitudes that experience colder and more variable temperatures. At the same time, these cosmopolitan flies evolved extraordinary ethanol tolerance to exploit a habitat rich in fermentation and potential pathogens. We are interested in how this natural history and ecology has led to divergence and plasticity in the pathways that mediate environmental temperature, pathogens and ethanol.
Drosophila allow us to test predictions from evolutionary theory and from models of physiological ecology in a genetic context, but our approach is not limited to working with a model organism. Members of the lab are encouraged to choose study organisms (and genomes) based on physiological adaptations that offer insight into the evolutionary forces shaping variation within and divergence among natural populations.
Other systems investigated in our lab
The effects of winter warming on the small white cabbage butterfly, Pieris rapae, A collaboration with Ph.D student Emily Mikucki and Dr. Brent Lockwood (University of Vermont).
Photo credit JJ Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org)