David Wake's research emphasizes analysis of evolutionary patterns and the processes that produce them. Two large multi-year NSF-funded projects are underway: 1. AmphibiaTree, a consortium of four universities focused on production of a robust phylogenetic hypothesis for all species of amphibians using combinations of molecular, morphological and other data, and 2. HerpNET, a biodiversity informatics project to produce a fully geocoded distributed digital database of amphibians and reptiles in 40 North American museums. A subproject of AmphibiaTree is a web portal, AmphibiaWeb, for providing ready access to available information for all species of the world. The focus of most of his current research are the large and diverse salamander fauna of North America and the tropical forests of Central America, and ring species in western North America. He is also studying the geography of amphibian declines and disappearances, and factors responsible for these phenomena.
In the News
Five California amphibian experts warn that a recently discovered fungus already devastating salamanders in Europe could imperil American salamanders, and urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately halt salamander imports until there is a plan to detect and prevent the spread of the fungus.
Nature is replete with animals and plants that have similar shapes or behaviors but are unrelated. They evolved these characteristics, such as long bodies in salamanders, independently, often through alteration of an entirely different set of genes. This process, called homoplasy, can tell us a lot about how evolution works, UC Berkeley biologists argue.
The spiny frogs of Asia have hard, nubby spines on their chests and arms and Popeye-like forearms in order to securely grasp females during mating in swift-flowing streams. Kunming Institute of Zoology and UC Berkeley biologists have conducted a genetic analysis of 24 species of spiny frogs to track the rise of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau that led to their diversification.