Molly  Morris, PhD


Arts and Sciences-Biological Sciences

Life Sciences 243


Member Type: Investigator  

Research Interest

Behavioral Ecology: My primary research interests are in sexual selection, the evolution of alternative reproductive tactics, and the evolution of communication in aggressive interactions. I primarily work with a group of freshwater fishes from Mexico, the swordtails and platyfishes (Xiphophorus). Currently we are examining variation in female mating preferences and the evolution of alternative reproductive tactics in X. multilineatus and its close relatives. We observe behavior in the field, and we also bring fish back to the laboratory to breed and observe. In addition, we use molecular techniques to examine gene flow, conduct paternity analyses and estimate phlogenetic relationships among populations and species. The phylogenetic trees we construct allow us to examine the evolution of behaviors and morphology across species, and test hypotheses about the evolution of female preferences and male-male aggressive behaviors, as well as role that preference and alternative tactics has played in the evolution of these species.

I currently have two research interests related to diabetes:
1) I am interested in investigating the relationship between fluctuating asymmetry in finger fingerprints and the propensity to develop diabetes. 2) I am also interested in determining the extent to which an alternative growth strategy we detected in the swordtail fish Xiphophorus mulitlineatus could become a model to understand variation in the MC4R gene in relation to diabetes.

Selected Publications

Lu, Y., Klimovich, C. M., Robeson, K. Z., Boswell, W., Ríos-Cardenas, O., Walter, R. B., & Morris, M. R. (2017). Transcriptome assembly and candidate genes involved in nutritional programming in the swordtail fish Xiphophorus multilineatus. PeerJ, 5, e3275.

Morris, M.R., R.J. Friebertshauser, O. Rios-Cardenas, M.N. Liotta and J.K. Abbott (2016) Selection on growth rates across alternative reproductive tactics in the swordtail Xiphophorus multilineatus. Evolutionary Ecology 30, 519-533.

Morris, M. R., Ludwar, B. C., Swingle, E., Mamo, M. N., & Shubrook, J. H. (2016). A New Method to Assess Asymmetry in Fingerprints Could Be Used as an Early Indicator of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 10(4), 864–871.

D’Amore, D.M., Rios-Cardenas, O. and Morris, M.R. (2015) Maternal investment influences development of a behavioral syndrome in swordtail fish, Xiphophorus multilineatus. Animal Behaviour 103, 147-151. (Chosen by Executive Editor as the Article of Focus, May 2015).

Murphy, A. D., Goedert, D., & Morris, M. R. (2014). Maternal effects are long-lasting and influence female offspring’s reproductive strategy in the swordtail fish Xiphophorus multilineatus. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 27(8), 1613–1622.

Lyons, S.M., Goedert, D., & Morris, M. R. (2014) Male-trait-specific variation in female mate preferences. Animal Behaviour 87, 39-44.

Rios-Cardenas, O., Brewer, J., & Morris, M. R. (2013). Maternal investment in the swordtail fish Xiphophorus multilineatus: support for the differential allocation hypothesis. PloS One, 8(12), e82723. 

Fernandez, A. A., & Morris, M. R. (2008). Mate choice for more melanin as a mechanism to maintain a functional oncogene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(36), 13503–13507.