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Mark A Kirkpatrick

Department of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Sciences

T. S. Painter Centennial Professorship in Genetics

Population genetics and genomics, evolutionary theory


Phone: 512-471-5858

Office Location
PAT 651

Postal Address
AUSTIN, TX 78712

Research Summary:

How does evolution generate the fantastic diversity we see in nature? Our lab studies this question from a genetic perspective. My work uses mathematical models and develops statistical tools to test hypotheses. Students and postdocs in our group compliment these theoretical approaches with experimental ones.

What kinds of questions interest us? We work on a wide range of problems. A big focus is chromosome evolution. Despite huge advances in genomic science, we still have very little understanding of such basic questions as: Why do species have different numbers of chromosomes?, How and why do chromosome rearrangements evolve?, and Why do some taxa keep re-evolving new sex chromosomes? Our results suggest that adaptation to local ecological conditions and sexually antagonistic selection are important drivers of chromosome evolution.

Other topics that we work on include:

  • Speciation. We study how and why reproductive isolation evolves. In one recent study, we determined when selection against hybrids will (and will not) finish off the process of speciation.
  • Sexual selection. We are interested in how female mating preferences evolve, and how do they affect male traits. One hot topic is intransitive mating preferences.
  • Species ranges. A basic mystery is why species don’t always expand their geographical ranges by adapting to more extreme conditions. We are developing models that show how gene flow, genetic constraints, and biological interactions can limit geographical ranges. The results may have useful applications in conservation biology.

What do graduate students and postdocs in our lab work on? I typically collaborate with people in the lab on one or more projects, but I also encourage independent research on topics that I do not work on. I also strongly support collaborations within our group, and collaborations with researchers in other labs at UT and abroad.