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University of Oregon

William Cresko

  • Professor, Assoc Vice Pres for Research

  • Office: 312 Pacific
  • Phone: 541-346-4779
  • Lab: 324 Pacific
  • Lab phone: 541-346-5189
  • Lab Website

Research Interests

While we have learned much about evolutionary processes since Darwin, we still know relatively little about the the developmental genetic and cellular basis of phenotypic evolution.  We are only just beginning to understand the size, distribution and molecular details of mutations that are contributing to phenotypic variation in the wild. Furthermore, we presently know little about how segregating alleles affect cell fates and developmental processes in natural populations, and whether the same genes and developmental pathways that are segregating alleles within a species are also contributing to divergence among taxa at higher levels.  To fill these gaps in our knowledge our laboratory is investigating the developmental genetic basis of phenotypic variation in the Order Gasterosteiformes, a lineage that comprises stickleback, pipefish and seahorses.  We are focusing our molecular genetic and developmental studies on variation in bone and cartilage structures, in particular head,  jaw and defensive armor characters. These ecologically important phenotypes vary extensively in this lineage.  We are asking whether the genes and developmental pathways that are important for threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) microevolution are involved in the macroevolutionary changes leading to the diverse phenotypes seen in leafy sea dragons, pipefish and seahorses, to name a few.  To perform this research we are using genetic mapping, developmental studies, and functional transgenic approaches, and we have recently modified next-generation parallel sequencing technologies to develop both inexpensive genotyping and methods for assembling target genomic regions in non-model organisms. Our most recent data focuses on the developmental genetic basis of variation in stickleback armor, head and jaw structures, as well as the sequence developmental analysis of key developmental regulators in the gulf pipefish (Syngnathus scovelli).  Together, these data are providing key insights into both the micro- and macroevolution of developmental patterns and processes, and are allowing us to address the developmental genetic basis of phenotypic divergence in the wild.

Selected Publications

2008 • Kimmel, C. B., B. Ullmann, M. Currey, W. E. Aguirre and W. A. Cresko. Heterotopy explains opercular shape evolution in Alaskan threespine sticklebacks. Behaviour (in press).

2007 • Miller, M., J. Dunham, A. Amores, W. A. Cresko and E. Johnson. Rapid and cost-effective polymorphism identification and genotyping using Restriction site Associated DNA (RAD) markers. Genome Research 17(2): 240-248.

2007 • Cresko, W. A., K. McGuigan, P. Phillips and J. Postlethwait. Developmental basis of microevolution in threespine stickleback: Progress, problems and promise. Genetica 129(1): 105-126.

2005 • Kimmel, C. B., B. Ullmann, C. Walker, C. Wilson, M. Currey, P. C. Phillips, M. A. Bell, J. H. Postlethwait and W. A. Cresko. Evolution and development of facial bone morphology in threespine sticklebacks. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 102 (16): 5791-6.

2005 • Force, A., W. A. Cresko, F. B. Pickett, S. R. Proulx, C. Amemiya, and M. Lynch.  The origin of subfunctions and modular gene regulation. Genetics 170:433-446.

2004 • Cresko, W. A., A. Amores, C. Wilson, J. Murphy, M. Currey, P. Phillips, M. Bell, C. Kimmel and J. Postlethwait. Parallel genetic basis for repeated evolution of armor loss in Alaskan threespine stickleback populations. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 101. 6050-6055.


BI253 – Evolution and Biodiversity. Third Course in the Biology Core Series
BI410/510 – Conservation Genetics
BI486/586 – Population Genetics