Area of Interest

The study of speciation draws on nearly all facets of evolutionary research, from patterns revealed by paleontology and biogeography to genetic change at the population and molecular level. In my research, I apply a variety of genetic and genomic approaches to the study of marine invertebrates, whose life histories, mating strategies, and geographical distributions offer novel opportunities for understanding speciation.

Current projects in my lab use sequences for genes encoding rapidly evolving sperm and egg proteins to explore speciation mechanisms in marine snails and RADseq to infer population history and genes involved with ecological speciationin reef corals. Additional projects look at geographical and habitat changes to microbial symbionts associated with a corals and combine genomic and paleobiological data to ask how the protein matrix of the shells of bivalve mollusks have responded to changes in ocean acidity across geography and through time.

Selected Publications

Leydet, K. P. and M. E. Hellberg. 2015. The invasive coral Oculina patagonica has not been recently introduced to the Mediterranean from the western Atlantic. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 79.

Prada, C. and M. E. Hellberg. 2014. Strong natural selection on juveniles maintains a narrow adult hybrid zone in a broadcast spawner. The American Naturalist 184: 702-713.

Prada, C., M. B. DeBiasse, J. E. Neigel, B. Yednock, J. L. Stake, Z. H. Forsman, I. B. Baums and M. E. Hellberg. 2014. Genetic species delineation among branching Caribbean Porites corals. Coral Reefs 33: 1019-1030.

DeBiasse, M. B., B. J. Nelson, and M. E. Hellberg. 2014. Evaluating summary statistics used to test for incomplete lineage sorting: mito-nuclear discordance in the reef sponge Callyspongia vaginalis. Molecular Ecology 23: 225-238.

Boulay, J. N., M. E. Hellberg, J. Cortés, and I. B. Baums. 2014. Unrecognized coral species diversity masks differences in functional ecology. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 281: 20131580.

Prada, C. and M. E. Hellberg.  2013.  Long pre-reproductive selection and divergence by depth in a Caribbean candelabrum coral.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110: 3961-3966.

Baums, I. B., J. N. Boulay, N. R. Polato, and M. E. Hellberg.  2012.  No gene flow across the Eastern Pacific Barrier in the reef-building coral Porites lobata.  Molecular Ecology 21: 5418-5433.

Hellberg, M.E., A. B. Dennis, P. Arbour-Reily, J. E. Aagaard, and W. J. Swanson. 2012. The Tegula tango: a co-evolutionary dance of interacting, positively-selected sperm and egg proteins. Evolution 66:  1681-1694.