Robert R. Fitak

Robert R. Fitak
University of Central Florida | UCF · Department of Biology

PhD

About

57
Publications
15,620
Reads
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759
Citations
Additional affiliations
May 2015 - present
Duke University
Position
  • PostDoc Position
September 2013 - April 2015
University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
Position
  • PostDoc Position
January 2008 - September 2013
The University of Arizona
Position
  • PhD Student
Education
January 2008 - August 2013
The University of Arizona
Field of study
  • Genetics
January 2003 - June 2006
The Ohio State University
Field of study
  • Molecular Genetics and Evolution and Ecology

Publications

Publications (57)
Article
Genetic admixture is a biological event inherent to genetic rescue programs aimed at the long-term conservation of endangered wildlife. Although the success of such programs can be measured by the increase in genetic diversity and fitness of subsequent admixed individuals, predictions supporting admixture costs to fitness due to the introduction of...
Article
Full-text available
The software Treemix has become extensively used to estimate the number of migration events, or edges (m), on population trees from genome-wide allele-frequency data. However, the appropriate number of edges to include remains unclear. Here, I show that an optimal value of m can be inferred from the second-order rate of change in likelihood (Δm) ac...
Article
The original PumaPlex is a high-throughput assay developed to genotype 25 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in pumas (Puma concolor). Here, we describe the development of PumaPlex100-an expanded version of the original assay that now genotypes > 100 SNPs. We tested 142 candidate SNPs and developed a panel of 101 polymorphic loci, which are spr...
Article
The identity of a magnetic sensor in animals remains enigmatic. Although the use of the geomagnetic field for orientation and navigation in animals across a broad taxonomic range has been well established over the past five decades, the identity of the magnetic-sensing organ and its structure and/or apparatus within such animals remains elusive—‘a...
Article
Full-text available
Diverse animals use Earth’s magnetic field to guide their movements, but the neural and molecular mechanisms underlying the magnetic sense remain enigmatic. One hypothesis is that particles of the mineral magnetite (Fe3O4) provide the basis of magnetoreception. Here we examined gene expression in the central nervous system of a magnetically sensiti...
Article
Many vertebrates have distinctive blue-green bones and other tissues due to unusually high biliverdin concentrations—a phenomenon called chlorosis. Despite its prevalence, the biochemical basis, biology, and evolution of chlorosis are poorly understood. In this study, we show that the occurrence of high biliverdin in anurans (frogs and toads) has e...
Article
Full-text available
Domestication begins with the selection of animals showing less fear of humans. In most domesticates, selection signals for tameness have been superimposed by intensive breeding for economical or other desirable traits. Old World camels, conversely, have maintained high genetic variation and lack secondary bottlenecks associated with breed developm...
Article
The emergent availability in public databases of more complete genome assemblies allows us to improve genomic data obtained by classical molecular cloning. The main goal of this study was to refine the genomic map of the dromedary TRG locus by integrating our previous genomic data with the analysis of recent genomic assemblies. We identified an add...
Article
Magnetoreception remains one of the most enigmatic of animal senses. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) represent an ideal species to study this sense, as magnetoreception based upon microscopic particles of magnetite is suspected to play an important role in their orientation and navigation. Here we found that compared with controls, a magnetic p...
Article
Full-text available
In the mid-1990s, the population size of Florida panthers became so small that many individuals manifested traits associated with inbreeding depression (e.g., heart defects, cryptorchidism, high pathogen-parasite load). To mitigate these effects, pumas from Texas were introduced into South Florida to augment genetic variation in Florida panthers. I...
Article
Full-text available
Myostatin, a negative regulator of skeletal muscle mass in animals, has been shown to play a role in determining muscular hypertrophy in several livestock species, and a high degree of polymorphism has been previously reported for this gene in humans and cattle. In this study, we provide a characterization of the myostatin gene in the dromedary (Ca...
Article
The outbreak and transmission of disease-causing pathogens are contributing to the unprecedented rate of biodiversity decline. Recent advances in genomics have coalesced into powerful tools to monitor, detect, and reconstruct the role of pathogens impacting wildlife populations. Wildlife researchers are thus uniquely positioned to merge ecological...
Article
The outbreak and transmission of disease-causing pathogens are contributing to the unprecedented rate of biodiversity decline. Recent advances in genomics have coalesced into powerful tools to monitor, detect, and reconstruct the role of pathogens impacting wildlife populations. Wildlife researchers are thus uniquely positioned to merge ecological...
Article
Full-text available
Coleoid cephalopods show unique morphological and neural novelties, such as arms with tactile and chemosensory suckers and a large complex nervous system. The evolution of such cephalopod novelties has been attributed at a genomic level to independent gene family expansions, yet the exact association and the evolutionary timing remain unclear. In t...
Article
Full-text available
The outbreak and transmission of disease-causing pathogens are contributing to the unprecedented rate of biodiversity decline. Recent advances in genomics have coalesced into powerful tools to monitor, detect, and reconstruct the role of pathogens impacting wildlife populations. Wildlife researchers are thus uniquely positioned to merge ecological...
Article
A major goal of sensory ecology is to identify factors that underlie sensory-trait variation. One open question centers on why fishes show the greatest diversity among vertebrates in their capacity to detect color (i.e. spectral sensitivity). Over the past several decades, λmax values (photoreceptor class peak sensitivity) and chromacy (photorecept...
Article
We present a novel laboratory activity to introduce students to experimental approaches often used by biologists to study orientation in animals. We first provide an overview of the current understanding of magnetoreception-the ability of some organisms to sense magnetic fields. We then outline an exercise that uses common pill bugs (Armadillidium...
Article
The increased availability of genome sequences has provided remarkable advances in our understanding of the evolutionary history of non-model species. One important consideration in evolutionary studies is the role of demographic history in shaping contemporary levels and distribution of genetic variation. In green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), a d...
Article
The ability to perceive the Earth's magnetic field, or magnetoreception, exists in numerous animals. Although the mechanism underlying magnetoreception has not been clearly established in any species, in salmonid fish, it is hypothesized to occur by means of crystals of magnetite associated with nervous tissue such as the brain, olfactory organ or...
Article
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) was historically distributed throughout the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Extensive predator removal campaigns during the early 20th century, however, resulted in its eventual extirpation by the mid 1980s. At this time, the Mexican wolf existed only in 3 separate captive lineages (McBrid...
Article
Full-text available
A recent study identified candidate genes linked to magnetoreception in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) by sequencing transcriptomes from the brains of fish exposed to a magnetic pulse. However, the discovery of these candidate genes was limited to sequences that aligned to the reference genome. The unaligned, or unmapped, sequences may yet con...
Article
Full-text available
Across diverse taxa, an increasing number of photoreceptive systems are being discovered in tissues outside of the eye, such as in the skin. Dermal photoreception is believed to serve a variety of functions, including rapid color change via specialized cells called chromatophores. In vitro studies of this system among color-changing fish have sugge...
Article
Full-text available
The genus Camelus is an interesting model to study adaptive evolution in the mitochondrial genome, as the three extant Old World camel species inhabit hot and low-altitude as well as cold and high-altitude deserts. We sequenced 24 camel mitogenomes and combined them with three previously published sequences to study the role of natural selection un...
Article
In studies of animal orientation, data are often represented as directions that can be analyzed using circular statistical methods. Although several circular statistical tests exist to detect the presence of a mean direction, likelihood-based approaches may offer advantages in hypothesis testing - especially when data are multimodal. Unfortunately,...
Article
Full-text available
Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola , which belongs to the order Onygenales , is an emerging fungal pathogen of snakes in the United States. This study reports the 21.9-Mb genome sequence of an isolate of this reptilian pathogen obtained from a black racer snake in Pennsylvania.
Article
Full-text available
Diverse animals use Earth’s magnetic field in orientation and navigation, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms that underlie magnetoreception. Recent studies have focused on two possibilities: (i) magnetite-based receptors; and (ii) biochemical reactions involving radical pairs. We used RNA sequencing to examine gene expression in the...
Article
Florida panthers are endangered pumas that currently persist in reduced patches of habitat in South Florida, USA. We performed mitogenome reference-based assemblies for most parental lines of the admixed Florida panthers that resulted from the introduction of female Texas pumas into South Florida in 1995. With the addition of 2 puma mitogenomes, we...
Article
Full-text available
Pumas Puma concolor are one of the most studied terrestrial carnivores because of their widespread distribution, substantial ecological impacts, and conflicts with humans. Over the past decade, managing pumas has involved extensive efforts including the use of genetic methods. Microsatellites have been the most commonly used genetic markers; howeve...
Article
Full-text available
Background The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is a genomic region containing genes with crucial roles in immune responses. MHC class I and class II genes encode antigen-presenting molecules expressed on the cell surface. To counteract the high variability of pathogens, the MHC evolved into a region of considerable heterogeneity in its organ...
Data
Fig. S1 The count of unique 31‐mers that are found n (multiplicity) times in the trimmed and error‐corrected paired‐end reads (blue line). Fig. S2 The count (A) and cumulative proportion (B) of unique 20‐mers that are found n (multiplicity) times in the raw, paired‐end sequencing reads (red line) and the trimmed and error‐corrected paired‐end read...
Article
Full-text available
Livestock conservation practice is changing rapidly in light of policy developments, climate change and diversifying market demands. The last decade has seen a step change in technology and analytical approaches available to define, manage and conserve Farm Animal Genomic Resources (FAnGR). However, these rapid changes pose challenges for FAnGR con...
Article
Full-text available
The single-humped dromedary (Camelus dromedarius), is the most numerous and widespread of domestic camel species and is a significant source of meat, milk, wool, transportation, and sport for millions of people. Dromedaries are particularly well adapted to hot, desert conditions and harbor a variety of biological and physiological characteristics w...
Article
Full-text available
The technique to produce hybrid Tulu or Nar camels from crosses between dromedary and Bactrian camels is common throughout Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. Formerly, these hybrids were highly valued as strong and persistent pack animals but today are bred to improve milk or wool quality in the respective species and for camel wrestling....
Data
Pumas are one of the most studied terrestrial mammals because of their widespread distribution, substantial ecological impacts, and conflicts with humans. Extensive efforts, often employing genetic methods, are undertaken to manage this species. However, the comparison of population genetic data is difficult because few of the microsatellite loci c...
Thesis
Full-text available
Traditionally, conservation genetics has examined neutral-marker (e.g microsatellite) surveys to inform the conservation and management of species. The field expanded together with the expansion of molecular biology, primarily enabled by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing technologies. Recently, advances in genomics and bioinformati...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The projected growth in human population, urbanization, and expansion of highways could pose a major threat to the future survival of big game species in Arizona. Fragmentation of habitat can restrict gene flow and create small populations leading to inbreeding, loss in genetic diversity and local extinction (Frankham et al. 2004). Wildlife manager...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Wildlife managers, conservation biologists, and scientific researchers often face situations where data from past projects are unavailable for current or future use in addressing research or management question. An example of this situation is the inability to share data between authors due to unavailability, inaccessibility, and sometimes loss of...
Article
Full-text available
The Mount Graham red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis; MGRS) is endemic to the Pinaleño Mountains of Arizona at the southernmost extent of the species’ range. The MGRS was listed as federally endangered in 1987, and is currently at high risk of extinction due to declining population size and increasing threats. Here we present a geneti...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
We are investigating the current population genetic status of mountain lions (Puma concolor) in the Sonoran Desert with the following questions: 1) What is the potential source of the recent mountain lion colonization in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (Kofa NWR), Arizona? 2) What are the habitat corridors for mountain lion movement in southwestern A...
Conference Paper
Recent advances in genetic techniques, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are not often applied to non-model species, including wild felids. Similarly, samples with low quantity of DNA, have not been widely utilized when working with these SNPs. New SNP markers developed for Puma concolor using transcriptome sequencing have shown to be...
Article
Full-text available
High-throughput, culture-independent surveys of bacterial and archaeal communities in soil have illuminated the importance of both edaphic and biotic influences on microbial diversity, yet few studies compare the relative importance of these factors. Here, we employ multiplexed pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to examine soil- and cactus-associa...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Background / Purpose: Here, we conducted genome-wide SNP genotyping to improve the captive breeding and reintroduction program for the Mexican Wolf. Main conclusion: We found that the Ghost Ranch lineage of the Mexican Wolf has some unusual characteristics and the founders of the pack were highly likely to be inbred.
Article
Full-text available
Sequence-based species identification relies on the extent and integrity of sequence data available in online databases such as GenBank. When identifying species from a sample of unknown origin, partial DNA sequences obtained from the sample are aligned against existing sequences in databases. When the sequence from the matching species is not pres...
Article
Full-text available
A novel Ehrlichia, closely related to Ehrlichia ruminantium, was recently discovered from Panola Mountain State Park, GA, USA. We conducted a study to determine if this agent was recently introduced into the United States. We developed a sensitive PCR assay based on the conserved gltA (citrate synthase) gene and tested DNA samples extracted from 19...
Thesis
Full-text available
This study seeks to determine the prevalence of endosymbiont bacteria present in A. americanum ticks collected primarily from Ohio, as well as analyze the genetic diversity of putatively non-pathogenic rickettsiae in these ticks using the 17 kDa cell surface antigen gene.

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Projects

Project (1)
Project
We are using genetics, notably RNA-Seq, to assess which genes and/or biological pathways are differentially regulated as a response to changes in magnetic fields. We are using a variety of navigating species, e.g. sea turtles, trout, shad, spiny lobsters, that are known to be sensitive to magnetic fields as models. Our goal is to characterize the mechanism(s) through which organisms perceive magnetic fields.