Hopi E. Hoekstra

John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Natural Sciences, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Presentation Title: From mice to molecules: the genetics of color adaptation

Camouflaging color is a classic example of adaptation—organisms that match their local environment often have a lower probability of predation relative to conspicuous individuals. Until recently, however, the underlying genetic changes responsible for this adaptation have been unknown. We have been studying cryptic coloration in natural populations of oldfield mice (Peromyscus polionotus), which show extreme color variation throughout their range in the southeastern U.S., first noted by naturalists in the early 1900s. While mice in the mainland have typical dark brown coats, mice that have recently colonized Florida’s coastal dunes and barrier islands have evolved light color and a unique color pattern to blend into the brilliant white-sand beaches. In this talk, I will present data -- from both the lab and the field – in which we (1) experimentally demonstrate that coloration matters for survival in the wild, and (2) identify the genes and developmental process responsible for color variation in these mice. Together, these results allow us to retrace the evolutionary path of adaptive change in the wild, teaching us new lessons about the evolution of diversity along the way.

Lab Website: http://www.oeb.harvard.edu/faculty/hoekstra/hoekstra-oeb.html

Recent Publications

Many of Dr. Hoekstra’s papers are available as pdfs through her website. The following papers from her webpage may be of particular interest:

Hoekstra, H. 2010. From Darwin to DNA: The Genetic Basis of Color Adaptations. In Losos, J. In the Light of Evolution: Essays from the Laboratory and Field, Roberts and Co. Publishers, ISBN: 9780981519494

This essay is from In the Light of Evolution: Essays from the Laboratory and Field edited by Jonathan Losos (Roberts and Company Publishers). The book will publish in December, 2010. ISBN # 9780981519494. Other contributors include: James Curtsinger, Ted Daeschler, Douglas Emlen, Harry Greene, Luke Harmon, Daniel Lieberman, Jonathan Losos, Axel Meyer, Teri J. Orr, Naomi Pierce, Andrew Berry, David C. Queller, Neil Shubin, David Reznick, Michael Ryan, Marlene Zuk, and Carl Zimmer. Includes a foreword by David Quammen.

Linnen, C.R., E.P. Kingsley, J.D. Jensen and H.E. Hoekstra. 2009. On the origin and spread of an adaptive allele in deer mice. Science 325:1095-1098.

Rosenblum, E. B., H. Römpler, T. Schöneberg and H.E. Hoekstra. 2010. The molecular and functional basis of phenotypic convergence in white lizards at White Sands. PNAS 107:2113-2117 (and PNAS Commentary)

Vignieri, S.N. and H.E. Hoekstra. (in press) The selective advantage of cryptic coloration in mice. Evolution.

Hoekstra, H.E., Hirschmann, R.J., Bundey, R.J., Insel, P. and J.P. Crossland. 2006. A single amino acid mutation contributes to adaptive color pattern in beach mice. Science. 313:101-104.

Steiner, C.C., J.N. Weber and H.E. Hoekstra. 2007. Adaptive variation in beach mice caused by two interacting pigmentation genes. PLoS Biology. 5(9): 1880-1889.

Resources for Teaching

Evolution of Evolution site

From the National Science Foundation
This site includes an essay by Hopi Hoekstra, From Darwin to DNA: Mice, Molecules, and the Struggle for Existence and an audio interview with Dr. Hoekstra.

Evolution – the Molecular Landscape Interview

From Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Dr. Hoekstra talks about her research in this short video. She gives information about the species she focuses on including how research is done and details about the mice.

Mundy NI, 2007 Coloration and the Genetics of Adaptation. PLoS Biol 5(9): e250. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050250

Modern Darwins

From National Geographic
This piece includes information about recent evolutionary discoveries and includes discussions of both Dr. Hoekstra’s and Dr. Carroll’s work.

An evolution saga: beach mice mutate and survive

V. Gewin, HHMI News, July 2006
This short piece gives an overview of the 2006 Science paper referenced above.

Pocket mouse and predation

This 20-second video illustrates the adaptive value of coat coloration in different environments.

Pocket mouse evolution

This one-minute video explains how a positively selected trait spreads in a population.

Nowhere to hide

This interactive computer game illustrates the value of cryptic coloration.

Mouse set to be 'evolution icon'

Matt Walker
Earth News, BBC
This article introduces a similar system found in deer mice living on sand dunes in Nebraska.

White Lizards Evolve in New Mexico Dunes

By Henry Fountain
New York Times, January 4, 2010
This article introduces another example of cryptic coloration based on changes in the regulation of melanin expression.