I study marine ecological and evolutionary processes such as dispersal, speciation, and adaptive radiation using a suite of complementary approaches including molecular population genetics, theory, behavioral observations, and experiments. During the last few years I have been using the hamlets, brightly colored coral reef fishes from the Caribbean (Hypoplectrus spp, Serranidae, see photographs below), as a model system for my research.
I am presently particularly interested in the role played by sexual selection in the process of speciation with gene flow. In order to address this long-standing question, I have taken a fresh perspective from economics matching theory. This approach constitutes a largely unexplored and promising research area that can be applied to a variety of taxa, providing ample opportunity for the development of innovative empirical and theoretical projects. I am also very excited by the potential provided by next-generation sequencing to address a variety of ecological and evolutionary questions at the individual, population, species, or community level and I am leading a large-scale genome scan study of the hamlets using Restriction-site Associated DNA (RAD) tags. In addition, I am finalizing a project aimed at estimating the spatial scale of larval dispersal in coral reef fishes in a perspective of networks of marine protected areas. This project, funded in part by the National Geographic Society, involved the continuous sampling of individuals along a 220-km megatransect following the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in Belize. By providing estimates of mean parent-offspring dispersal distance in several species with different life histories at a relatively low cost - a grail in marine biology - this data will constitute a basis to address quantitatively both fundamental and applied questions about the dynamics of coral reef fish communities.
Representative and Recent Publications
- Puebla O, Bermingham E, Guichard F (in press) Pairing dynamics and the origin of species. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1549.
- Puebla O, Bermingham E, Guichard F (2011) Perspective: matching, mate choice, and speciation. Integrative & Comparative Biology 51, 485-491.
- Puebla O, Bermingham E, Guichard F (2009) Estimating dispersal from genetic isolation by distance in a coral reef fish (Hypoplectrus puella). Ecology 90, 3087-3098.
- Puebla O, Bermingham E, Guichard F (2008) Population genetic analyses of Hypoplectrus coral reef fishes provide evidence that local processes are operating during the early stages of marine adaptive radiations. Molecular Ecology 17, 1405-1415.
- Puebla O, Bermingham E, Guichard F, Whiteman E (2007) Colour pattern as a single trait driving speciation in Hypoplectrus coral reef fishes? Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274, 1265-1271.