The Cristescu Lab
Welcome to the Cristescu Lab!
Area of Interest
Evolution and maintenance of biological diversity in aquatic ecosystems.
Our research group is studying i) the genetics of aquatic invasions and habitat transitions, ii) the nature and scale of recombination and mutation rate variation across genomes, populations and species and iii) speciation patterns and processes in ancient lakes.
Our research group explores the extent to which populations of aquatic organisms evolve invasiveness and/or tolerance to multiple stressors. The significant ecological and economic impact of biological invasions creates the need for an understanding of the ecological and evolutionary causes and consequences of invasiveness: the vectors and pathways of natural and human-mediated aquatic invasions, the ecological and evolutionary factors affecting establishment and secondary spread, as well as the ecological genomics of habitat transitions. The work on aquatic invasive species allows us to uncover evolutionary changes that occur during geographic range expansions and to explore the targets of selection associated with colonizing novel habitats and/or dealing with new stressors.
This work involves a combination of approaches (e.g., ecological genomics, phylogenetics, population genetics, comparative genomics, multilocus genetic screening to identify candidate genes for adaptation during habitat transition) and creates a platform for long-term multidisciplinary collaborations.
Understanding the ecological and genetic factors involved in the establishment and spread of non-indigenous species can help in monitoring, predicting and preventing biological invasions and can provide insights into fundamental issues in ecology, evolution and biogeography.
One of the central themes of our research program has been studying mutation and recombination rate variation across genomes and their implications for the mode and tempo of genome evolution. Our work on the long-term mutation-accumulation lines of asexually propagated Daphnia revealed exceptionally high rates of large-scale segmental deletions suggesting that asexual taxa likely experience a much higher deleterious mutation rate than previously thought. This approach allowed us to directly estimate mutation rates in sexual and asexual lineages.
Explosive speciation in ancient lakes has fascinated biologists for centuries and has inspired classical work on the tempo and modes of speciation. We are exploring evolutionary and ecological factors important in explaining speciation in ancient lakes. We are studying the endemic fauna of the Caspian Sea and the Malili Lakes of Indonesia, the only hydrologically connected system of ancient lakes. Our recent findings suggest that hybridization is not only of little impediment to diversification, but could act as an important force in facilitating habitat transitions, post colonization adaptations and accelerating diversifications.
Dr. Melania Cristescu
Canada Research Chair in Ecological Genomics
Office: (514) 398-1053
|Last update: Dec. 12, 2013
Webmistress: Carole Verdone-Smith, Department of Biology