Ichthyology Research

Ichthyology explores evolution, biodiversity, genomics, morphology, ecology, biogeography, and life history of fishes. These studies are grounded in our research collections that represent a major worldwide resource for anatomical and genomic investigations of fishes and vertebrates.

Research at a Glance

  • KU ichthyologists conduct cutting-edge research on Recent and fossil freshwater and marine fishes, focusing on molecular and comparative anatomical studies.
  • Our growing research staff includes five or more scientists, including students, postdocs, research associates, and curators.
  • KU Ichthyology researchers are working on projects ranging from niche-modeling studies of cods to transcriptome-based studies of scorpionfishes to the development of the caudal-fin to higher-level studies of ray-finned fishes using fossil and extant species.
  • In 2013, KU Ichthyology published 17 papers in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Our work is funded chiefly by competitive National Science Foundation research grants, the Biodiversity Institute, and the University of Kansas.
  • We host on-site specimen-based research by 5–10 visiting researchers per year with international visiting scholars hosted through KU’s International Programs Office.

The Genomics and Evolution of Venomous Fishes

Venomous fishes pose a serious human threat with >50,000 reported envenomations per year. Prior to work from my lab, we knew little about the phylogenetic distribution of venomous fishes with most previous estimates identifying just 200 venomous fishes.

venemous fish

Evolution of Deep-Sea Fishes

All animals that have evolved in the deep sea are under similar selective pressures as a result of the environmental extremes (e.g., little to no penetrable sunlight, high atmospheric pressure). This extreme habitat has led to massive convergence in animal morphology and behavior across deep-sea organisms.

deep see fish evolution

Cypriniform Tree of Life

This large and collaborative research project resulted in the development of evolutionary hypotheses of relationships and taxonomic classifications for the fishes of the order Cypriniformes, the largest group of entirely freshwater fishes in the world with over 3,300 described species.


Euteleost Tree of Life

The euteleosts include some 346 families, 2,935 genera and over 17,400 species of fishes. Over two thirds of all fishes and nearly a third of all vertebrates are euteleosts, which include most of the economically important fishes such as salmons, basses, cods, and tunas.