Who could resist being interested in animals that live in extreme environments? Cave-dwelling animals, for example, look spooky, because they are unusual, often eyeless and without pigmentation. At the very least they are very different from their closest relatives living in what we would call ‘normal/benign’ habitats, providing biologists with valuable tools to study evolution and ecology. Livebearing fishes (family Poeciliidae) are clearly some of the most beloved and widespread ornamental fishes around the globe; however, few people are aware that natural populations of some of the same species we have in our aquaria at home (e.g., guppies and mollies) have also repeatedly colonized extreme environments. In my talk, I will give an overview over the types of extreme environments inhabited by members of the family Poeciliidae, and will then specifically focus on those poeciliids that are known from caves and toxic sulfur springs. For these, I will outline what we know about their general biology (including behaviour, morphology, and life history) but also about the specific adaptations that enable them to survive under extreme conditions. This presentation will tie in nicely with several common A-level biology topics, such as ‘how organisms exchange substances with their environment'', ‘genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms’, ‘organismal responses to changes in their environment’, and ‘genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems’.
Location: Boiler House Auditorium. Refreshments and reception from 5:30pm.