Since Darwins’ “The Origin of Species” there has been a continued interest to gain insight in the way species are formed. Initially, the role of geographic isolation in speciation received most attention, as it was believed that the spatial separation of populations formed the most important barrier for reproduction. It is now clear however that other factors than geographic isolation, such as sexual selection or environmental changes, contribute to speciation. Although the external processes influencing speciation have been the subject of many studies, the genetic basis of the speciation process itself remains largely unknown.
The cichlid fishes from the Great African lakes are often cited as the ultimate animal model to investigate adaptive radiation and speciation because of their many independent replicate radiations, phenotypic diversity and wide range of ages. Moreover, several cichlid genomes have recently become available, enabling the use of advanced techniques such as RNA sequencing (RNAseq) and Genotyping By Sequencing (GBS) to address evolutionary changes at the genome level.
The GENBAS project is funded by the Belspo BRAIN-be program.