Dr. Ryan L. Earley is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama.
Research Summary: The Earley laboratory uses a variety of fish species to understand the mechanisms underlying phenotypic variation, particularly aggressive and reproductive behaviors. More recently, we have capitalized on some extraordinary characteristics of a unique vertebrate model to explore the mechanisms that sculpt complex phenotypes, and how suites of phenotypic traits change in response to early-life environmental conditions and in response to selection. The mangrove rivulus is the only self-fertilizing, hermaphroditic vertebrate capable of producing offspring that are genetically identical to the parent and all siblings. This extraordinary reproductive strategy, coupled with occasional out-crossing, provides the opportunity to explore with unprecedented resolution both genetic and non-genetic bases of phenotypic variation in a vertebrate system. We combine field and laboratory investigations to understand the degree to which phenotypic traits (from endocrine profiles and life history characteristics to behavior) covary, the evolutionary implications of such covariance, and how the physical and social environments alter developmental trajectories of behavior, physiology and sex.