Skip directly to main navigation | secondary navigation | main content

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Cornell University Cornell University Cornell University Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Amy McCune


Hylodes phyllodes, a stream-breeding frog from Atlantic Coastal Forest of Brazil


Biology of Fishes class collecting at Oneida Lake


An Acacia tree backlit by the African sunset


Pisaster ochraceus in the intertidal


Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, growing in Ithaca

Previous ImageNext Image

McCune, Amy


Amy McCuneemail:
phone: 607-254-4217
room: E249 Corson Hall


Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates


A.B. 1976, Brown University

M.Phil. 1978, Yale University

Ph.D. 1982, Yale University

Graduate Fields:

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Other Cornell Affiliations:

Faculty Curator of Ichthyology, Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates


Evolutionary Biology, Macroevolution, Ichthyology, Paleobiology, Systematics, Evolutionary Developmental Biology

Research Focus

My lab studies two broad questions in evolutionary biology: why are some groups so diverse and how do morphological novelties evolve? To explore these questions, we work primarily on fishes, both living and fossil. Recent and ongoing projects on diversification have focused on the ecological, morphological, and genotypic aspects of divergence between closely related species (e.g., Tanganyikan cichlids; Australian skinks) within a phylogenetic framework.

We are currently pursuing study of the evolution of morphological novelty in vertebrates. Of particular interest is how the lungs of basal bony vertebrates (Osteichthyes) have been modified to function as swimbladders (respiratory or hydrostatic) in more derived ray-fin fishes (Actinopterygii). We are using Micro-CT imaging in a broadly comparative study of bony vertebrates to study the evolution of these air-filled organs (lungs, swimbladders) in a phylogenetic framework. We are using comparative study of gene expression to decipher the underlying genetic basis of this important evolutionary transformation.

Past projects on evolutionary novelty have addressed the effects of diet on the jaw and body morphology of cichlids; the ontogeny and phylogeny of jaw morphology in needlefishes and their allies; the development and evolution of pigmentation in zebrafish and morphological variability within zebrafish.

Recent Courses Taught

  • BioEE 4760 Biology of Fishes
  • BioEE 4760 Laboratory
  • BioEE 4640 Macroevolution
  • BioEE 1780 Evolutionary Biology and Diversity

Selected Publications

Longo, S. J., M. Riccio, and A. R. McCune. 2013. Homology of lungs and gas bladders: insights from arterial vasculature. Journal of Morphology 274:687-703.

Cass, A. N., M. D. Servetnick, and A. R. McCune. 2013. Expression of a lung developmental cassette in the adult and developing zebrafish swimbladder. Evolution and Development 15(2):119-132.

Wagner, C. E., A. R. McCune, and I. J. Lovette. 2012. Recent speciation in sympatric Tanganyikan cichlid colour-morphs. Molecular Ecology 21:3283-3292.

McCune, A. R. and J. C. Schimenti. 2012. Using Genetic Networks and Homology to Understand the Evolution of Phenotypic Traits. Current Genomics 13(1):74-84.

Rabosky, D. and A. R. McCune. 2010. Reinventing species selection with molecular phylogenies.  Trends in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 25(2):68-74.

Wagner, C. E. and A. R. McCune. 2009. Contrasting patterns of spatial genetic structure in sympatric rock-dwelling cichlid fishes.  Evolution 63(5):1312-1326.

McCune, A. R. 2004. Diversity and speciation of semionotid fishes in Mesozoic rift lakes.  In: Adaptive Speciation, U. Dieckman, M. Doebli, and J. A. J. Metz (eds.).  Cambridge University Press pp. 362-379.

McCune, A. R. and R. L. Carlson. 2004. Twenty ways to lose your bladder: Common natural mutants in zebrafish and widespread convergence of swim bladder loss among teleost fishes.  Evolution and Development 6(4):246-259.

McClure, M. and A. R. McCune. 2003. Evidence for developmental linkage of pigment patterns with body size and shape in Danios (Teleostei:  Cyprinidae).  Evolution 57(8):1863-1875.

McCune, A. R., R. C. Fuller, A. A. Aquilina, R. M. Dawley, J. M. Fadool, D. Houle, J. Travis, and A. S. Kondrashov. 2002. A low genomic number of recessive lethals in natural populations of bluefin killifish and zebrafish.  Science 296:2398-2401.

McCune, A. R. and N. R. Lovejoy. 1998. The relative rate of sympatric and allopatric speciation in fishes: Tests using DNA sequence divergence between sister species and among clades.  In: Endless Forms: Species and Speciation, D. Howard and S. Berloccher (eds.).  Oxford University Press pp. 172-185.

McCune, A. R. 1996. Biogeographic and stratigraphic evidence for rapid speciation in semionotid fishes.  Paleobiology 22(1):34-48.

Normark, B. B., A. R. McCune, and R. G. Harrison. 1991. Phylogenetic relationships of neopterygian fishes inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences.  Molecular Biology and Evolution 8:819-834.

McCune, A. R. 1990. Morphological anomalies in the Semionotus complex: Relaxed selection during colonization of an expanding lake.  Evolution 44(1):71-85.