Luke Tornabene

  • Assistant Professor

Research areas

Research in my lab focuses on the systematics and evolution of bony fishes.  This includes the discovery and formal description of new biodiversity, exploring the phylogenetic relationships between groups of fishes and understanding how genotype, phenotype and ecology work in concert to produce the amazing diversity we observe in the aquatic world around us. Our systematic research employs a multidisciplinary approach that relies on morphological data from specimens from natural history collections, molecular phylogenetic and phylogenomic analyses, and ecological data. New and emerging projects in our lab will look to take advantage of the UW Fish Collection’s world-class archive of otoliths, eggs, and larvae of fishes of the North Pacific to address relevant questions in systematics, conservation, and fisheries management.


  • FISH 311 – Biology of Fishes

Areas of Expertise

  • Taxonomy
  • Systematics
  • Evolution
  • Phylogenomics
  • Coral Reef Fishes

Selected publications

  • Brandl, S.J., Tornabene, L., Goatley, C.H.R., Casey, J.M., Morais, R.A., Côté, I.M., Baldwin, C.C., Parravicini, V.P., and Bellwood, D.R. (2019). Demographic dynamics of the smallest marine vertebrates fuel coral reef ecosystem function. Science 21: 1189-1192. 10.1126/science.aav3384

  • Tornabene, L., Baldwin, C. (2019). Psilotris vantasselli, a new of species of goby from the tropical western Atlantic (Teleostei: Gobiidae: Gobiosomatini: Nes subgroup). Zootaxa, 4624.

  • Kuang, T., Tornabene, L., Li, J., Chakrabarty, P., Naylor, G.J.P., and Li, C. (2018). An empirical approach to dissecting phylogenomic data: interrelationships of the Gobioidei, an exceptionally diverse clade of fishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 128: 192-202.

  • Baldwin, C., Tornabene, L., Robertson, D.R. (2018). Below the mesophotic. Scientific Reports 8:4920. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-23067-1

  • Tornabene, L., Van Tassell, J.L., Robertson, D.R., and Baldwin, C.C.  (2016). Repeated invasions into the twilight-zone: evolutionary origins of a novel assemblage of fishes from deep Caribbean reefs. Molecular Ecology 25: 3662-3682.

  • Tornabene, L., Van Tassell, J. L., Gilmore, R.G., Robertson, D. R., Young, F., and Baldwin, C.C. (2016). Molecular phylogeny, analysis of character evolution, and submersible collections enable a new classification for a diverse group of gobies (Teleostei: Gobiidae: Nes subgroup), including nine new species and four new genera. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 177: 794-812. doi: 10.1111/zoj.12394

  • Tornabene, L., Valdez, S.*, Erdmann, M., and Pezold, F. (2016). Multi-locus sequence data reveal a new species of coral reef goby (Teleostei: Gobiidae: Eviota), and evidence of Pliocene vicariance across the Coral Triangle. Journal of Fish Biology 88 (5): 1811-1845. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12947