Area: Natural History, Biodiversity
Licenciate in Biology, Universidad de Los Andes in Mérida, Venezuela, 1998 Ph.D., Texas A&M University, 2004
Postdoctoral Fellow, Integrative Biology (Dan Bolnick Lab), University of Texas at Austin, 2005
Postdoctoral Research Associate, EEB program (Kirk Winemiller lab), Texas A&M University, 2006
Hernán López-Fernández is a Curator of Ichthyology in the Department of Natural History at the ROM.
Hernán was born in Montevideo, Uruguay but lived most of his life in Venezuela. His fascination with fishes started at an early age when his father bought him the first of many aquariums. A few years later, he discovered cichlid fishes and decided to dedicate his career to studying them. For his B.Sc., he studied the feeding ecology of cichlids of the genus Satanoperca with Donald Taphorn. He then moved to the United States to obtain his Ph.D., studying the phylogeny of geophagine cichlids under Kirk Winemiller and Rodney Honeycutt. Following that, he went to the University of Texas at Austin as a postdoctoral fellow in Daniel Bolnick’s lab, to work on the genetics of speciation in North American sunfishes in the genus Lepomis. In 2006, he returned to Texas A&M as a postdoctoral fellow funded by the US National Science Foundation to continue studying phylogenetics, adaptive radiation and convergent evolution in cichlids from South and Central America.
As a Curator at the ROM, Hernán's research focuses on the evolutionary biology of South and Central American cichlids. The freshwaters of South and Central America are estimated to harbor well over 6,000 species of fishes; more than any other biogeographic region on Earth. Among this great diversity, cichlid fishes are remarkable for their morphological, ecological and behavioral diversity. Although cichlids are well-known models of adaptive evolution in lakes, little is known about their diversification in rivers. Hernán combines field and laboratory research in systematics, biogeography and evolutionary biology to study the radiations of American cichlids as models of the evolutionary history of Neotropical fishes. Comparative evolutionary studies of cichlids and other groups should provide a powerful tool to understand the origin of the most diverse freshwater fish fauna on the planet.
Adaptive radiation is recognized as one of the most important processes responsible for the origin of biological diversity.