Division of Ecological Genetics • Kitano Group

Genetics of adaptive radiation


Research Summary

Our research goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the evolution of biodiversity. Although many genes important for animal development and behavior have been identified in model organisms, little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying naturally occurring phenotypic variation important for adaptation and speciation in wild populations. Furthermore, little is known about how newly evolved alleles important for adaptation and speciation spread within natural populations. To understand these ecological and genetic mechanisms, we mainly use stickleback fishes as a model. Our research takes an integrative approach across diverse disciplines.

Our research takes an integrative approach across diverse disciplines. The first step is to conduct a detailed ecological survey of natural variation among stickleback populations collected from diverse environments. Next, we use genetic and genomic tools to study the genetic architecture of ecologically important phenotypic traits and also identify candidate genes responsible for adaptation and speciation. Then, we use transgenic and knockout approaches to study the detailed molecular and physiological functions of these candidate genes in vivo. Furthermore, we plan to use semi-natural ponds to get insight into how different alleles behave within natural populations.


Ishikawa, A., Kusakabe, M., Ravinet, M., Yoshida, K., Makino, T., Toyoda, A. Fujiyama, A., and Kitano, J. (2017). Different contributions of local- and distantregulatory changes to transcriptome divergence between stickleback ecotypes. Evolution, 71, 565-581.

Yoshida, K., Makino, T., Yamaguchi, K., Shigenobu, S., Hasebe, M., Kawata, M., Kume, M., Mori, S., L. Peichel, C.L., Toyoda, A., Fujiyama, A., and Kitano, J. (2014). Sex chromosome turnover contributes to genomic divergence between incipient stickleback species. PLoS Genet 10, e1004223.

Ishikawa, A., Takeuchi, N., Kusakabe, M., Kume, M., Mori, S., Takahashi, H., and Kitano, J. (2013). Speciation in ninespine sticklebacks: reproductive isolation and phenotypic divergence among cryptic species of Japanese ninespine stickleback. J Evol Biol 26, 1417-1430

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