Dark world rises: The emergence of cavefish as a model for the study of evolution, development, behavior, and disease

Suzanne E. McGaugh, Johanna E. Kowalko, Erik Duboué, Peter Lewis, Tamara A. Franz-Odendaal, Nicolas Rohner, Joshua B. Gross, Alex C. Keene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


A central question in biology is how naturally occurring genetic variation accounts for morphological and behavioral diversity within a species. The Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus, has been studied for nearly a century as a model for investigating trait evolution. In March of 2019, researchers representing laboratories from around the world met at the Sixth Astyanax International Meeting in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico. The meeting highlighted the expanding applications of cavefish to investigations of diverse aspects of basic biology, including development, evolution, and disease-based applications. A broad range of integrative approaches are being applied in this system, including the application of state-of-the-art functional genetic assays, brain imaging, and genome sequencing. These advances position cavefish as a model organism for addressing fundamental questions about the genetics and evolution underlying the impressive trait diversity among individual populations within this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-404
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This review was supported by NIH Grant R01 GM127872 (to S. E. M., A. C. K., and N. R.), NSF EDGE award 1923372 (to E. R. D., S. E. M., N. R., and J. E. K.), and a US‐Israel BSF award (to A. C. K.). J. E. K. and A. C. K. are also supported by funding from the NSF (DEB‐1754231) and J. E. K., S. E. M., and N. R. are supported by funding from the NSF (IOS‐1933428). J. B. G. is supported by funding from the US National Institute of Health (NIDCR R01‐DE025033) and the US National Science Foundation (DEB‐1457630). T. A. F. O. is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Discovery Grant #328376).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Wiley Periodicals LLC


  • 6th Astyanax international meeting, 2019
  • Astyanax mexicanus
  • cavefish
  • meeting report


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