Michi Tobler, Professor

Michi Tobler

Contact information

304 Ackert Hall

Lab website: http://www.sulfide-life.info


Dr. Sci. Nat., 2008, University of Zürich, Institute of Zoology. Zoology.

Areas of Specialization

Adaptation and Speciation; fish biology; Extreme environments.

Research Focus

Research in our lab seeks to understand patterns in and mechanisms underlying biological diversification. Two key questions dominate our work: (1) How and why do organisms diversify phenotypically, and (2) how and why do reproductive barriers evolve between populations; i.e., under what circumstances can we observe speciation? We approach these questions by focusing on fish species that inhabit extreme environments and by quantifying genomic, phenotypic, and performance variation along environmental gradients. Generally, we strive to combine field-based studies with analytical and experimental approaches in the laboratory. Most of our current work focuses on fishes of the family Poeciliidae as a study system. Various lineages of poeciliids that have colonized toxic, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) rich springs, and they provide a unique model to address a wide variety of questions in physiology, ecology, and evolution.

Our lab is also actively involved in public engagment and science outreach. Together with various partners, we are spearheading the Kansas Science Communication Initiative (KSCI) and the Kansas Science Fest.

Selected Publications

Greenway, R., N. Barts, C. Henpita, A. P. Brown, L. Arias-Rodriguez, C. M. Rodríguez Peña, S. Arndt, G. Y. Lau, M. P. Murphy, L. Wu, D. Lin, J. H. Shaw, J. L. Kelley & M. Tobler (2020): Convergent evolution of conserved mitochondrial pathways underlies repeated adaptation to extreme environments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 117 (28): 16424–16430.

Tobler, M., N. Barts & R. Greenway (2019): Mitochondria and the origin of species: bridging genetic and ecological perspectives on speciation processes. Integrative and Comparative Biology 59 (4): 900–911.

Tobler, M., J. L. Kelley, M. Plath & R. Riesch (2018): Extreme environments and the origins of biodiversity: adaptation and speciation in sulfide spring fishes. Molecular Ecology 27 (4): 843–859.

Passow, C. N., A. P. Brown, L. Arias-Rodriguez, M.-C. Yee, A. Sockell, M. Schartl, W. C. Warren, C. Bustamante, J. L. Kelley & M. Tobler. 2017. Complexities of gene expression patterns in natural populations of an extremophile fish (Poecilia mexicana, Poeciliidae). Molecular Ecology 26 (16): 4211-4225.

Culumber, Z. W. & M. Tobler. 2017. Sex-specific evolution during the diversification of livebearing fishes. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1 (8): 1185-1191.

Greenway, R., S. Drexler, L. Arias-Rodriguez & M. Tobler. 2016. Adaptive, but not condition-dependent, body shape differences contribute to assortative mating during ecological speciation. Evolution 70 (12): 2809-2822.

Tobler, M., C. N. Passow, R. Greenway, J. L. Kelley & J. H. Shaw. 2016. The evolutionary ecology of animals inhabiting hydrogen sulfide rich environments. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 47: 239-262.

Palacios, M., G. Voelker, L. Arias-Rodriguez, M. Mateos & M. Tobler. 2016. Phylogenetic analyses of the subgenus Mollienesia (Poecilia, Poeciliidae, Teleostei) reveal taxonomic inconsistencies, cryptic biodiversity, and spatio-temporal aspects of diversification in Middle America. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 103 (10): 230-244.

Kelley, J. L., L. Arias-Rodriguez, D. Patacsil Martin, M.-C. Yee, C. Bustamante & M. Tobler. 2016. Mechanisms underlying adaptation to life in hydrogen sulfide rich environments. Molecular Biology and Evolution 33 (6): 1419-1434.


View the complete publication list in NCBI