Moisés A. Bernal

Postdoctoral Fellows

Research Interests

​I am broadly interested in evolution of marine organisms, aiming to understand mechanisms of adaptation and speciation using molecular approaches. Previous projects I have participated in have dealt with population genetics, phylogeography, ecology and systematics of coral reef fishes. My PhD dissertation was focused on the evolutionary history of grunts (genus Haemulon), a relatively understudied group of fishes from the Americas. Results from my dissertation suggested that sympatric sister-species of the Tropical Eastern Pacific hybridized in the recent past, highlighting potential mechanisms of divergence in the presence of gene-flow. A study with three closely related grunts of the Caribbean revealed genes associated with important ecological and reproductive functions under strong positive selection, which could inform mechanisms of divergence during initial stages of speciation. Additional collaborations delved into the mechanisms of speciation and divergence in other groups of marine and freshwater fishes.

Current research in the Ravasi Lab deals with understanding mechanisms of adaptation to changing marine environments, specifically elevated temperatures and ocean acidification. As anthropogenic effects are leading to global changes, it is imperative to understand the consequences these events will have on marine species. Previous studies have demonstrated that in many cases a small percent of natural populations can quickly adapt to such changes. Thus, research in the lab aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of adaptation to climate change in coral reef fishes, using genomic approaches.

Selected Publications

  • Bernal MA, MR Gaither, B Simison and LA Rocha. In press. Introgression and selection shaped the evolutionary history of sympatric sister-species of coral reef fishes (genus: Haemulon).
  • Gaither MR, MA Bernal, I Fernandez-Silva, M Mwale, SA Jones, C Rocha and LA Rocha. 2015. Two deep evolutionary lineages in the circumglobal Glasseye, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus (Teleostei, Priacanthidae) with admixture in the Western Indian Ocean. Journal of Fish Biology 87, 715-727.
  • Gaither MR, MA Bernal, R Coleman, B Bowen, S Jones, WB Simison and LA Rocha. 2015. Genomic signatures of geographic isolation and natural selection in coral reef fishes. Molecular Ecology 24, 1543-1557. doi: 10.1111/mec.13129
  • Bernal MA, NL Sinai, C Rocha, MR Gaither, F Dunker and LA Rocha. 2014. Long-term sperm storage in the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark Chiloscyllium punctatum Müller & Henle, 1838 (Chondrichthyes: Hesmiscyliidae).
  • Rocha LA, MA Bernal, MR Gaither and ME Alfaro. 2013. Massively parallel sequencing: the new frontier in biogeography. Frontiers of biogeography 5, 67-77.


  • ​2009-2015: Ph.D. Marine Science, University of Texas at Austin, USA.
  • 2003-2008: B.Sc. Biology, Universidad de Panamá, Panamá.