Matt Mc Gee

Dr. Matt Mc Gee

Postdoctoral Scholar

Department Fish Ecology & Evolution

About Me

My research utilizes experimental studies of behavior in conjunction with modern genomic techniques to understand the phenotypic and genotypic dynamics of ecological speciation, evolutionary innovation, and convergent evolution in fish communities.

I am particularly known for my use of high-speed video to measure suction feeding kinematics in fishes.

Genomic and functional basis of ecological speciation:
One major goal of my research program is to understand the genomic architecture of ecological speciation via a combination of next-generation sequencing and functional morphology.

In a study recently published in Molecular Ecology, I used whole-genome resequencing to examine genomic patterns of divergence in three sympatric cichlid species pairs with very similar functional and ecological differentiation, but different ages. In contrast to many other genome scans of closely related species, we find that in these cichlids regions of elevated relative differentiation also exhibit increased absolute differentiation. 

In my recent American Naturalist manuscript, I examined the functional basis of inferior hybrid performance, which has key implications for the study of ecological speciation. I examined bluegill, green sunfish, and their naturally-occurring hybrid using prey capture kinematics and morphology to parametrize suction feeding simulations on divergent parental resources (Figure 1B). Our results show that intermediate hybrid phenotypes can be impaired by a less than intermediate performance and hence suffer a larger loss in fitness than could be inferred from morphology alone. This work represents one of the few experimental assays of performance in naturally occurring interspecific hybrids. 

Ecological consequences of evolutionary innovation:
I am also interested in examining evolutionary innovations, traits that give species access to previously unoccupied niches and may promote speciation and adaptive radiation. I am particularly interested in how evolutionary innovations affect modern community dynamics, particularly with regards to invasive species.

In my recent Science paper, I used a combination of behavioral studies and macroevolution to present the first evidence that the modified pharyngeal jaws of cichlid fishes and several marine fish lineages, a classic example of evolutionary innovation, are not a universally beneficial trait, but one that played a critical and previously unrecognized role in the mass extinction of cichlid fishes in Lake Victoria after Nile perch invasion.

In my 2016 Proceedings paper, I utilized phylogenetic information from ultraconserved genomic elements in conjunction with experimental studies of feeding behavior in over fifty species of cichlid fishes from Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika. I reveal a strong association between the evolution of biting behavior and reduced jaw kinesis, suggesting that the contrasting demands of biting and suction feeding have strongly influenced cranial evolution in both cichlid radiations. 

Dynamics of convergent evolution in fishes:
Convergent evolution, in which populations produce similar phenotypes in response to similar selection pressure, is strong evidence for the role of natural selection in shaping biological diversity. My 2013 Evolution paper showed that convergent evolution may be an important and previously underappreciated source of morphological diversity.

Matthew D. McGee, Brant C. Faircloth, Samuel R. Borstein, Jimmy Zheng, C. Darrin Hulsey, Peter C. Wainwright, and Michael E. Alfaro. 2016. Replicated divergence in cichlid radiations mirrors a major vertebrate innovation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In press.

Matthew D. McGee, Russel Y. Neches, and Ole Seehausen. Evaluating genomic divergence and parallelism in replicate ecomorphs from young and old cichlid adaptive radiations. 2016. Molecular Ecology. In press.

Matthew D. McGee, Samuel R. Borstein, Russell Y. Neches, Heinz Buescher, Ole Seehausen, and Peter C. Wainwright. 2015. A pharyngeal jaw evolutionary innovation facilitated extinction in Lake Victoria cichlids. Science 350: 1077-1079.

Matthew D. McGee, Joseph W. Reustle, Christopher E. Oufiero, and Wainwright, Peter C. 2015. Intermediate kinematics produce inferior performance in a classic case of natural hybridization. American Naturalist 186: 807-814.

Arnegard, Matthew E., Matthew D. McGee, Blake W. Matthews, et al, and Dolph Schluter. 2014. Genetics of ecological divergence during speciation. Nature 511: 307-311. Link

McGee, Matthew D., Dolph Schluter, and Peter C. Wainwright. 2013. Functional basis of ecological divergence in sympatric stickleback. BMC Evolutionary Biology 13: 277. Link

McGee, Matthew D., and Peter C. Wainwright. 2013. Convergent evolution as a generator of phenotypic diversity in threespine stickleback. Evolution 67: 1204-1208. Link

McGee, Matthew D., and Peter C. Wainwright. 2013. Sexual dimorphism in the feeding mechanism of threespine stickleback. Journal of Experimental Biology 216: 835-840. Link

Pfennig, David W., and Matthew D. McGee. 2010. Resource polyphenism increases species richness: a test of the hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365: 577-591. Link

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We investigate the mechanisms of speciation and adaptive radiation

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Curriculum Vitae

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This person does no longer work at Eawag. Please contact for further information.

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Research Group

Fish Ecology & Evolution

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Research Focus

Genomics, Morphology, Adaptation, Speciation, Comparative Methods

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