Evolutionary genetics, molecular phylogenetics, plant-pollinator interactions, comparative methods.
My lab studies the evolution and genetics of floral diversification, with a focus on the tomato family, Solanaceae. We use molecular phylogenies and statistical comparative methods to infer the evolutionary history of floral traits and to test ecological factors that may have shaped their evolution. We also employ molecular, genetic, and biochemical approaches to understand the mechanisms underlying floral trait differences across species. Recent work has focused on the evolution of flower color, as this trait has a relatively simple genetic basis and is ecologically important. Results of our studies suggest that flower color changes can involve a range of genetic mechanisms (e.g., gene deletion, changes in gene expression, functional evolution) and may often be driven by competition for pollinators among sympatric species.
Smith, S. D., S. Wang, and M. D. Rausher. 2013. Functional evolution of an anthocyanin pathway enzyme during a flower color transition; Molecular Biology and Evolution 30: 602-612.
Baum, D. A., and S. D. Smith. 2013. Tree-Thinking: An Introduction to Phylogenetic Biology. Roberts & Co., Greenwood Village, Colorado.
Smith, S. D., and M. D. Rausher. 2011. Gene loss and parallel evolution contribute to species difference in flower color.nbsp; Molecular Biology and Evolution 28: 2799-2810.
Smith, S. D. 2010. Using phylogenetics to detect pollinator-mediated floral evolution. New Phytologist 188: 354-363.
Smith, S. D., C. Ané, and D. A. Baum. 2008. The role of pollinator shifts in the floral diversification of Iochroma (Solanaceae). Evolution 62: 793-806.