Working on Fundulus eggs and embryos allowed Trinkaus to have a long, successful research career at Yale, which enabled him to make many discoveries that contributed to the understanding of the complex cell movements during gastrulation (see Chapter 6), but the process of choosing any experimental subject can also constrain a scientist’s research prospects. During the early 1980s, Trinkaus went to France to conduct research at the famous Station Biologique de Roscoff, and observed the development of another teleost fish, Blennius pholis. Trinkaus was able to make a novel discovery about directional cell movements because of a slight difference in the behaviour of pigment cells, or melanocytes, in Blennius and Fundulus.
While both Blennius and Fundulus have melanocytes in their yolk sacs, the pigmented cells in Blennius behave differently than those in Fundulus. Trinkaus’s attention to detail allowed him to notice those peculiar patterns and devise experiments to test hypotheses about the behaviour and movement of Blennius’ melanocytes. From these experiments, he published two papers in the Journal of Experimental Zoology in 1988 (Trinkaus 1988a; 1988b). Trinkaus thus remarked: “a little tinkering with other material from time-to-time can be both refreshing and scientifically revealing…in any case, the guiding principle for serious research should always be the problem or concept involved, not the organism” (Trinkaus 2003, 259).