Ecology and Evolution of Livebearing fishes: Schlupp lab

OU Department of Biology, Ingo Schlupp

That was fast!

A lot has happened since the last post. The semester flew by and I had a great time teaching Animal Communication. The best part for me was that we invited colleagues to meet with us and discuss their research and life with us. Almost everybody said yes to the request and the interactions were fantastic.

In good news, the year started with a nice paper by Chance Powell coming out in Behavioral Ecology. In this paper we looked for differences in male mate choice in a fish species from Hispaniola, Limia perugiae. We did not find any. Now we are looking for morphological differences……

A little later, another paper on mate choice came out, this time on female preferences in Poecilia latipinna and P. mexicana. And their F1’s. We found no preferences, which may support the idea that indiscriminate females may have been involved in the hybrid origin of the Amazon molly. But negative data is always tricky to interpret…… The lead author on this was Caden Smith, then an undergrad funded by an REU from NSF. He is now a Masters student in the lab working on mudskippers. Stay tuned!

Finally, in bittersweet news, Waldir has accepted a position as Assistant Professor at the University of Western Florida in Pensacola. He will be moving shortly. All the best for the future! His projects are goldmines of data and we will be publishing together for a very long time. We plan to present some of the data at the Poeciliid Conference in San Marcos in October.

Aurelia sp. in the California Academy of Science.
A gecko who wants to be a twig. Also California Academy of Science.

Fall came late ….

After the incredibly hot summer, we had a warm fall, but now temperatures have cooled of and made space for a very nice winter. Much has happened: one more paper out in the fine journal Behavior. This one is a nice field based study on work conducted by Omar.

One of the highlights this fall was starting a new rack for experiments Waldir is running. It is fun to see it full of fishes!

And in November we had a nice birthday event for Mike Ryan, who had turned 70 this year. It was great to see so many old friends, listen to great talks and hang out with the group.

Into the new semester

After the eventful summer, we have eased into the fall semester of 2023. I am teaching statistics again this semester, and it is fun!

The summer seems long past but there were adventures: I was invited at a Gutenberg Conference as a speaker and was able to talk about and discuss Amazon mollies and our recent work with great colleagues. I saw many old friends, and met amazing new ones. This was in July….. Andrea accompanied me and we took the Bahn from Hamburg: without any problems!

We spent an extra day in lovely Mainz, enjoying stained glas windows by Chagall and the Gutenberg bibles in the Gutenberg Museum.

After returning from Germany, the semester started, but I left again in September to attend a Monod conference on sex in Roscoff, France. This time I was giving a poster!

This was right around the time when our Evolution paper, lead by Fred Fyon came out.

Roscoff and the Bretagne are breathtakingly beautiful!

Sunset over tidal flat in Roscoff

In total, this fall we had four papers come out:

  1. FYON, F., WILD, G, MIRON BERBEL-FILHO, W., SCHLUPP, I. & UBEDA, F. (2023) Why Do Hybrids Turn Down Sex? (Evolution,
  2. JANKO, K., MIKULÍČEK, HOBZA, R. & SCHLUPP, I. Asexual species matter in Ecology and Evolution (Ecology and Evolution, DOI: 10.1002/ece3.10522).
  3. CEREPAKA, C. & SCHLUPP, I. (2023) Sperm specificity and potential paternal effects in gynogenesis in the Amazon Molly (Poecilia formosa(PeerJ, in press).
  4. DOMÍNGUEZ-CASTANEDO, O. & SCHLUPP, I. Intra- and interspecific behavioral ecology within and between Mollienesia males (sailfin molly Poecilia velifera and shortfin molly P. mexicana) in mangroves of Yucatán peninsula (Behaviour, in press).

I hope the paper with my European friends and colleagues will have an impact. It is open access and you can find it here:

Under the heat dome

We had an unusually hot early summer, with tornados and heavy weather right before we came under a heat dome that gave us, well a lot of heat.

Recently two papers came out. One a cool study on cognitive load in fishes by Amber, Shelby, and me.

The second paper goes back to data that Luis Ariana collected many years ago! Sometimes you just have to wait….. Here we report on sex-specific life-history trait expression in hybrids between cave mollies and surface mollies. Read it! Overall, the hybrids are in terrible shape, but one sex has the life history traits of cave mollies, the other resembles surface mollies. Send me your thoughts on how this works.

Cave mollies

And in June, couple of people from the lab went to the Evolution meetings in Albuquerque. It was a great meeting with a lot of fun. We had three talks and one poster presentation and on the day of the posters wore T-shirts with the new logo of the stock center. Thanks to Kristina Schlegel for creating the logo!

We currently have six manuscripts submitted, so please stay tuned for more updates.

Winter into Spring of 2023

A lot is happening right now. As the spring semester unfolds (Spring Break is almost over), we are preparing for the summer (and for tornado season….).

We had a new paper come out recently. It is one of very few papers on Limia vitiate, the endemic Limia from Cuba. Many individuals are spotted, but not all. what is behind that? Natural selection or sexual selection. Find out here: RODRIGUEZ-SILVA, R., SPIKES, M., ITURRIAGA MONSISBAY, M. & SCHLUPP, I. (2023) Color polymorphism in the Cuban endemic livebearing fish Limia vittata (Teloestei, Poeciliidae): Potential roles of sexual and natural selection Ecology and Evolution (DOI: 10.1002/ece3.9768). Several papers are submitted, maybe coming out soon.

Then there was a delightful visit by Kathy Kasic, who gave a wonderful talk and screened her awesome movie: The lake at the bottom of the world. Breathtaking visuals and fantastic story! There is a huge freshwater lake under the Antarctic ice.

Just before that visit I spent a short weekend in New York. Exploring the MET and walking Manhattan. At the MET I found a beautiful vase with a Peacock theme. Darwin would have been delighted.

Peacock vase at the MET.

And of course, waving at Lady Liberty on the way to Staten Island.

Statue of Liberty from the distance.

Finally, I was interviewed for the Fish of Week podcast by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I got to talk about the Amazon Molly for a little while and had nothing but fun! Here is a link to the podcast, check it out.

Fall and Winter 2022

Summer and Fall of 2022 were difficult for me for personal reasons. Although I tried to let my professional work not be affected too much, it was not possible. It turned out to be a bit of a slow year in terms of publications, too. And I only submitted one major grant. But there are several things in the pipeline! A cool review of the effects of asexuals on sexual species is re-submitted to Evolution (and the preprint is available, too). Several papers from the NSF funded Amazon Molly project are also submitted and will hopefully come out in 2023.

We are also revisiting an old dataset on genetic structuring in Sailfin mollies, which will be my first paper with son, Dr. Jan Schlupp.

And I plan to submit at least three grant proposals in 2023……

In the summer, I attended my first in person conference in a long time – and promptly got Covid. Luckily, I had mild symptoms, but the disruption was serious, nonetheless.

Undeterred, I agreed to be an opponent for a doctoral student at Stockholm University. It was both terrifying and fun for the candidate and me. It felt like a huge responsibility to me. But it all worked out! Right after that I was able to attend a small conference in Wageningen, Netherlands, on Poeciliid Biology. It was a most delightful meeting with a lot to be learnt and many cool talks and discussions. I really love these small conferences!

One of the highlights in the fall was a short trip to Puerto Rico to check out the invasive livebearers of this island. There are no native Poeciliids on the island, but plenty of invasive species, including – of course – Guppies. And not only invasive fishes, but also invasive Green Iguanas. They are very pretty, but have a huge ecological impact.

Green Iguana basking on the lawn of El Moro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Summer again

It feels a little surreal with the war against Ukraine, the Covid pandemic, now monkey pox, global warming and everything, but it is summer! Time for conferences, research, travel……. I did a short trip to Austin, Texas to deliver some fishes from the stockcenter for a collaboration.

Check out the small symposium we are going to have in June in Puebla, Mexico on Amazon mollies. More info under the upcoming events tab!

Finally, I was able to create a list of books on Mate Choice I like for Shepard. Check it out here:

The books I list are from colleagues and friends I respect very much. Take a look!

Skyline of the UT campus in Austin
Invertebrates can be beautiful, too. Seen in the Coral, River, Texas

April: the world is at war

Sometimes events just take over. This has happened too often lately. First a pandemic with millions of deaths, now a war of aggression against Ukraine that is shaking up the world as we knew it. Herr Putin is the clear villain in this and he must be stopped. I stand with Ukraine and how they bravely defend all of us.

The new symbol of freedom

Although it is sometimes difficult to grasp, life still happens. I teach Animal Behavior and we just had a long discussion of sexual selection. The students liked that peacocks made Darwin sick!

The bird that made Darwin sick. Taken in Berlin on the Pfaueninsel (I think).

In other news, our investigation into the origin of Amazon mollies is moving along nicely! We will share first results at a small symposium to be held in Puebla, Mexico in May. It will be nice to be back in Mexico and to share ideas with colleagues.

Not Puebla, but a nice waterfall in Tabasco

Winter storm again – after a long January

January is always a funny month. After the winter holidays, the semester begins and everything seems out of balance for a few weeks. I am teaching again, this time Animal Behavior, a course I love to teach. We teach in person with masks (my students are great at wearing them), so I only see the top half of their faces, but it all works out so far.

Research is very active, several papers are (re) submitted, more to come! Interestingly, a few older studies from our work on Cave mollies have now matured and are ready to come out.

New students are joining the lab, all is very dynamic.

Cave Molly (Poecilia mexicana) embryos. Photo credit: Rudy Riesch

And last week we had our annual snowstorm. Campus was closed for three days, driving was difficult, but nothing seriously bad happened. Yeah!

Field vehicle covered in ice (this was actually in 2010)

Luckily, winter does not last long here in Oklahoma and soon the sunflowers will dominate again.

Sunflower in Scissortail park in Oklahoma City 2021

Final month of 2021

It is time to greet 2022 with hopes for a year less dominated by the pandemic and the right wing activists that are now teaming up with people opposing vaccinations. As I scientist I have a very hard time understanding why people reject the protection provided by a vaccine. It seems utterly irrational to me – and that may be the most disturbing part. There are so many wrinkles to this…..

How did the pandemic affect me so far? Every aspect of life is more difficult, doing science and teaching are much more exhausting, field work and travel are near impossible. Nonetheless, personally I had many good moments this year, working with great people, enjoying family and friends as much as possible. For that I am very, very grateful. One thing the virus has highlighted for me is to enjoy the moment. Say goodby to the idea that we control all aspects of our lives…..

After the semester was over, I flew to Germany for a family visit with a short detour to give two talks in Italy. This was so much fun! Thanks to my hosts and all the good people that took time to hang out with me.

Morning at Piazza San Marco, Venice.
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