My Research

The Cichlids of Lake Malawi

The cichlids of the East African Rift Lakes represent one of the fastest evolving groups of species to have ever existed on earth - but how do they do it?

When looking at cichlids we can see that the features which distinguish most of the species are their jaws and their patterns both of which are produced from a stock of stem cells called Neural Crest Cells.

My work focuses on when during development the jaws of these fish become distinct from those of other species to try and better understand how their jaws became so different and why cichlids have been able to adapt their shapes so much faster than other animals.

The cichlids of Lake Tanganyika - illustrated by life science studios

A watercolour of the cichlids of Lake Tanganyika by Life Science Studios.  Click on the image to view her store and buy her incredible work.

The Evolution of Evolution

We know that evolution produces solutions to nature's problems but is evolutionary theory applicable to culture? How about to evolutionary theory itself?

I worked with Professor Armand Leroi on a project to uncover how evolutionary biology and ecology has evolved since its conception. We used natural language processing to read every paper publically available on JSTOR and analysed the rise and fall of biological fields to challenge Thomas Kuhn's hypothesis that science advances through 'revolutions'. 

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©2019 by Sam McKay