The Webb lab investigates the development and evolution of cranial sensory systems in fishes. In particular, we are interested in the development and evolution of the mechanosensory lateral line system. Over the years, we have studied the lateral line system in a variety of teleost fish taxa (butterflyfishes, zebrafish, flounders, cichlids, greenlings). Each of these taxa has interesting and unique attributes, which has allowed us to ask fundamental questions about lateral line evolution, patterns and mechanisms of development and functional morphology. New projects are being added to our lab as new students and post-docs join our lab group.
1) Development and Evolution of an Adaptive Phenotype in the Mechanosensory Lateral Line System of Cichlid Fishes - (supported by NSF grant IOS- 0843307) - Two genera of Lake Malawi (Africa) cichlid fishes (Aulonocara [widened canals], and Tramitichromis [narrow canals]), will be used for a study that uses comparative anatomical, developmental and behavioral approaches to address fundamental issues in fish sensory biology. Cichlid Project webpage.
Development of the Lateral Line System in Elasmobranch Fishes - We have been studying the development of the lateral line canal system in the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea, which is allowing an exploration of how patterns of lateral line development evolved at the divergence of the elasmobranchiomorph and osteichthyan fishes.
Former graduate student Molly Moore used histochemical assays for osteoblasts and osteoclasts to detail cell-level patterns of lateral line morphogenesis and growth in post-embryonic zebrafish in order to discover the way in which lateral line canals are integrated into the dermatocranial dermal bones of the osteichthyan skull.
4) The Laterophysic Connection in Butterflyfishes - We described the comparative anatomy, development and systematic significance of the laterophysic connection, a unique swim bladder-lateral line linkage in butterflyfishes in the genus Chaetodon. Supported by two NSF grants to JFW [ Link to Butterflyfish Project site ]
-- MicroCT imaging - in collaboration with Doug Moore of the the Orthopedics Research Lab at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University's Alpert Medical School