Daniel Graf

Assistant Professor

Phone: (205) 348-2537

Email: dlgraf@bama.ua.edu

Dr. Graf’s Lab Webpage

Daniel Graf received a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Michigan in 2001. He was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama in 2008. Prior to joining the University of Alabama, he served as Assistant Curator of Malacology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Research Interests

My research can be broadly categorized as freshwater malacology. I am interested in the origin and maintenance of the diversity of mollusks (and other aquatic organisms), especially the bivalve order Unionoida (AKA freshwater mussels). A few of characteristics make freshwater mussels useful models for studying evolutionary patterns and processes at various scales of space and time: high global diversity (840+ spp.), ancient origin (200+ My) and interesting biology. Almost all species are parasitic upon freshwater fishes during the mussels’ larval stages, and this is their primary means of dispersal. This complicated life cycle effectively limits freshwater mussel vagility to fresh water, making them poor dispersers across terrestrial and oceanic barriers. Given the Mesozoic origin and worldwide distribution of the Unionoida, I predict that the distributions and phylogenetic relationships of freshwater mussel populations, species and clades should reflect the history of their environment, from the relatively recent glaciations of the Pleistocene to the break-up of Pangaea.

I use a wide variety of data and methods in order to get at these problems from different complementary angles of investigation: molecular and morphological phylogenetic analyses, collections-based specimen studies and biodiversity informatics. My goal is to approach specific hypotheses from multiple scales. For example, my studies of the evolution and diversity of the Afrotropical freshwater mussel assemblage involve (1) phylogenetic analyses of DNA and anatomy to find the sister-groups of the four family-level lineages, (2) development of a comprehensive specimen database to facilitate revisionary studies and (3) field studies in the Congo, Zambezi and Nile basins. This kind of systematic research is fundamental to all other biological endeavors, and given the globally imperiled status of freshwater mollusks, it is difficult to overstate the utility of freshwater diversity studies.


Selected Publications

Graf, D.L. & K.S. Cummings. 2010. Comments on the value of COI for family-level freshwater mussel systematics: a reply to Hoeh, Bogan, Heard & Chapman. Malacologia 52: 191-197.

Cummings, K.S. & D.L. Graf. 2009. Mollusca: Bivalvia. pp. 309-384 in J.H. Thorp & A.P. Covich (eds.). Ecology and Classification of North American Freshwater Invertebrates, 3rd edition. Academic Press-Elsevier, New York.

Graf, D.L. & K.S. Cummings. 2009. Actual and alleged freshwater mussels (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Unionoida) from Madagascar and the Mascarenes, with description of a new genus, Germainaia. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 158: 221-238.

Graf, D.L. & K.S. Cummings. 2007. Review of the systematics and global diversity of freshwater mussel species (Bivalvia: Unionoida). Journal of Molluscan Studies 73: 291-314.

Graf, D.L. & K.S. Cummings. 2006. Palaeoheterodont Diversity (Mollusca: Trigonioida + Unionoida): What we know and what we wish we knew about freshwater mussel evolution. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 148: 343-394.