Dr. John Taylor

Dr. John Taylor
Associate Professor
Office: PCH 012

Areas of research focus

  • Molecular evolution
  • Opsin genes
  • Phylogenetics
  • Comparative genomics

Nearly all life forms detect and respond to light. For animals, light detection starts with opsins.

Vertebrate visual opsins, which are expressed in the photoreceptor cells of the retina, are the focus of most opsins research but they represent the tip of the iceberg. Our lab studies visual and non-visual opsin diversity, and we characterize opsin gene expression in fish using qPCR and immunostaining. 

We have recently studied a subterranean catfish from the Amazon, and sablefish and starry flounder from coastal British Columbia. Each species has features that help determine what roles opsins play, and help explain why fish have such large opsin repertoires.

In addition to opsins, we are collaborating with an industry partner to identify genetic signatures associated with a diversity of traits (including sex, growth rate, and pathogen resistance) in sablefish.

  • BIOL 439 Molecular Epidemiology
  • BIOL 435 Molecular Evolution
  • BIOL 362 Basic Techniques in Molecular Biology
  • BIOL 355 Evolution
  • BIOL 535 Reading Darwin

Rubi T.L. et al. 2022. Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) parentage analyses in aquaculture. Aquaculture Research. 

Kuzmin E., Taylor J.S. and Boone C. 2021. Retention of duplicated genes in evolution. Trends in Genetics.

Savelli I. et al. 2018. Parallel opsin switches in multiple cone types of the starry flounder retina: tuning visual pigment compositions for a demersal life style. Scientific Reports. 

Beaudry F.E.G. et al. 2017. The non-visual opsins: eighteen in the ancestor of vertebrates, astonishing increase in ray-finned fish, and loss in amniotes. Journal of Experimental Zoology 328:685-696.

Iwanicki T.W. et al. 2017. Fine-tuning light sensitivity in the starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus) retina: regional variation in photoreceptor cell morphology and opsin gene expression. Journal of Comparative Neurology 525:2328-2342.

Marques D.A. et al. 2017. Convergent evolution of SWS2 opsin facilitates adaptive radiation of threespine stickleback into different light environments. PLoS Biology 15(4):e2001627.

Braasch I. et al. 2016. The genome of the spotted gar provides insights into vertebrate evolution and facilitates human-to-teleost comparisons.Nature Genetics 48:427-437.

Taylor J.S. 2014. Did Neanderthals and Denisovans have our de novo genes? Journal of Molecular Evolution 78:321-323.


Rennison D.J., Owens, G.K., and Taylor J.S. 2012. Opsin gene duplication and divergence in ray-finned fish. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Owens, G.L. Rennison, D.J., Allison W.T. and Taylor J.S. 2012. Intraretinal opsin gene expression variation in the four-eyed fish (Anabelps anableps) correlates to background light properties. Biology Letters.

Churcher A.M. and Taylor J.S. 2011. The antiquity of chordate odorant receptors is revealed by the discovery of orthologs in the cnidarian Nematostella vectiensisGenome Biology and Evolution 3:36.

Taylor, J.S. and Raes, J. 2004. Duplication and divergence: The evolution of new genes and old ideas. Annual Reviews in Genetics,38:615-643.

Taylor J.S., I. Braasch, T. Frickey, A. Meyer and Y. Van de Peer, 2003. Genome duplication, a trait shared by 22,000 species of ray-finned fish. Genome Research 13:382-390.