Ben Sandkam

Assistant Professor


His research focuses on the interplay between genome evolution and mating behavior. He earned a BS in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009. In 2016 he completed his PhD in Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University, where he studied the interplay between color vision and mate preferences. Next, he studied the genomic processes that shape rapid evolution of color vision as a postdoc with Karen Carleton at the University of Maryland, and as a visiting scientist at the NIH. He went on to receive a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Judith Mank at the University of British Columbia, where he explored how genome evolution supports polymorphic reproductive strategies. 

Research Focus

Across species there is tremendous diversity in reproductive strategies, and these strategies have a profound influence on the evolution of species. We ask what the genetic causes and consequences of reproductive strategies are for males and females across species. It remains largely unknown how mate preference and sexual traits are encoded within the genome, and how processes of genome evolution influence reproductive strategies. By bringing together perspectives from genetics, genomics, behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology we take an integrative approach to identify the mechanisms underlying these strategies.

The freshwater fishes in the family Poeciliidae differ widely in the male traits preferred by females, as well as the strategies used by males during courtship. We take advantage of this natural variation to study how genome evolution has shaped mate preferences. We examine both male tactics and female choice to understand how biodiversity is shaped by the interplay between reproductive strategies and genome evolution.




Sandkam BA, Campello L, O’Brien C, Nandamuri SP, Gammerdinger W, Conte M, Swaroop A, Carleton KL. 2020. Tbx2a Modulates Switching of RH2 and LWS Opsin Gene Expression. Molecular Biology and Evolution 37(7):2002–2014.

Darolti I, Wright AE, Sandkam BA, Morris J, Bloch NI, Farré M, Fuller RC, Bourne GR, Larkin DM, Breden F, Mank JE. Extreme heterogeneity in sex chromosome differentiation and dosage compensation in livebearers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116(38)19031-19036.

Wright, AE, I Darolti, NI Bloch, V Oostra, B Sandkam, SD Buechel, N Kolm, F Breden, B Vicoso, JE Mank. 2017. Convergent recombination suppression suggests a role of sexual selection in guppy sex chromosome formation. Nature Communications 8: 14251

Sandkam, BA, CM Young, and F Breden. 2015. Beauty in the eyes of the beholders: colour vision is tuned to mate preference in the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Molecular Ecology, 24 (3): 596-609.

Sandkam BA, Almeida P, Darolti I, Furman B, van der Bijl W, Morris J, Bourne G, Breden F, Mank JE. 2020. Extreme Y chromosome polymorphism corresponds to five male reproductive morphs. BioRxiv. doi: 10.1101/2020.08.19.258434 

Almeida P, Sandkam BA, Morris J, Darolti I, Breden F, Mank JE. 2020. Divergence and Remarkable Diversity of the Y Chromosome in Guppies. Molecular Biology and Evolution. In Press.


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