R. Craig Albertson


Photograph of First Last
336 Morrill II South

B.S., University of New Hampshire, 1996 Ph.D., University of New Hampshire, 2002


The Forsyth Institute and Harvard School of Dental Medicine, 2002 - 2006

Research Interests: 

Evolutionary Developmental Biology

Research in my lab aims to better understand the relationship between genotype and phenotype (i.e., G-P). For reasons of experimental utility and evolutionary richness, our main experimental model is the skeletal system in bony fishes. Our general approach is to integrated studies in laboratory models (e.g., zebrafish) and natural populations (e.g., cichlid fishes) to address questions related to the development and evolution of complex morphologies. Methods of study include quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping, population genomics, quantitative RT-PCR, in situ hybridization, experimental embryology, and quantitative shape analysis (geometric morphometrics). In addition, we seek to make more general contributions to the field in the form of new conceptual and predictive frameworks for evo-devo studies. Specific on-going research topics/themes in the lab include:

1. Genetic/genomic basis of adaptive morphological variation.

2. Molecular basis and evolution of phenotypic plasticity.

3. Mechanisms that regulate skeletal development, growth and homeostasis.

A more detailed description of ongoing research in the lab, as well as a list of current and past lab personnel may be found here:


Representative Publications: 

Conith MR, Hu Y, Conith AJ, Maginnis MA, Webb JF, Albertson, R.C. (2018). Genetic and developmental origins of a unique foraging adaptation in a Lake Malawi cichlid genus. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 115(27):7063-7068.

Parsons KJ, Son Y, Crespel A, Thambithurai D, Killen S, Harris M, Albertson, R.C. (2018). Conserved but flexible modularity in the zebrafish skull: Implications for craniofacial evolvability. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 285(1877).

Albertson, R.C., Kawasaki KC, Tetrault ER, Powder KE (2018). Genetic analyses in Lake Malawi cichlids identify new roles for Fgf signaling in scale shape variation. Commun Biol. 1:155.

Hu Y, Albertson, R.C. (2017). Baby fish working out: An epigenetic source of adaptive variation in the cichlid jaw. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 284(1860).

Navon D, Olearczyk N, Albertson, R.C. (2017). Genetic and developmental basis for fin shape variation in African cichlid fishes. Mol Ecol. 26:291-303.

Parsons KJ, Conith M, Navon D, Wang J, Ea I, Groveas K, Campbell C, Albertson, R.C. (2016) Foraging environment determines the genetic architecture and evolutionary potential of trophic morphology in cichlid fishes. Mol Ecol. 25: 6012-23.

Hu Y, Ghigliotti L, Vacchi M, Pisano, Detrich W, Albertson, R.C. (2016). Evolution in an extreme environment: Developmental biases and phenotypic integration in the adaptive radiation of Antarctic notothenioids. BMC Evol. Biol. 16(1):142.

Powder KE, Albertson, R.C. (2015). Cichlid fishes as a model to understand normal and clinical craniofacial variation. Dev Biol. 415(2):338-46.

Parsons KJ, Wang J, Anderson G, Albertson, R.C. (2015). Nested Levels of Adaptive Divergence: The Genetic Basis of Craniofacial Divergence and Ecological Sexual Dimorphism. G3 (Bethesda). 5(8):1613-24.

Powder KE, Milch K, Asselin G, Albertson, R.C. (2015). Constraint and diversification of developmental trajectories in cichlid facial morphologies. Evodevo. 6:25.

Concannon MR, Albertson, R.C.

(2015). The genetic and developmental basis of an exaggerated craniofacial trait in East African cichlids. J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 324(8):662-70.


Smith AJ, Nelson-Maney N, Parsons KJ, Cooper WJ, Albertson, R.C. (2015). Body Shape Evolution in Sunfishes: Divergent Paths to Accelerated Rates of Speciation in the Centrarchidae. Evol Biol 42(3):283-295.

Albertson, R.C., Powder KE, Hu Y, Coyle KP, Roberts RB, Parsons KJ (2014). Genetic basis of continuous variation in the levels and modular inheritance of pigmentation in cichlid fishes. Mol Ecol. 23(21):5135-50.

Powder KE, Cousin H, McLinden G, and Albertson, R.C. (2014). A non-synonymous mutation in the transcriptional regulator lbh is associated with cichlid craniofacial adaptation and neural crest cell development. Mol Biol Evol. 31(12):3113-24.

Hu Y, Albertson, R.C. (2014) Hedgehog signaling mediates adaptive variation in a dynamic functional system in the cichlid skull. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 111(23):8530-8534.

Parsons KJ, Taylor AT, Powder KE, and Albertson, R.C. (2014) Wnt signalling underlies the evolution of new phenotypes and craniofacial variability in Lake Malawi cichlids. Nat Commun. 5:3629.

Hu Y, Parsons KJ, Albertson, R.C. (2014) Evolvability of the cichlid jaw: New tools provide insights into the genetic basis of phenotypic integration. Evol Biol. 41:145-153.

Brennan PLR, Irschick DJ, Johnson NA, and Albertson, R.C. (2014) Oddball science: Why funding studies of unusual evolutionary phenomena is critical. BioScience. doi: 10.1093/biosci/bit039.

A complete list of publications may be found here: