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April 10, 2024

12:00pm, PST 1100 TLSB and Zoom

Victoria Watson-Zink
Department of Biology, Stanford University

" The Hitchhiker's Guide to Terrestriality: Exploring sea-to-land transitions in decapod crabs "

Dr. Victoria Watson-Zink is driven to understand the evolutionary contexts under which ancestrally marine animals colonized land across the history of life on Earth beginning over 485 million years ago, and how these transitions govern historical and contemporary patterns of biodiversity. Her work primarily focuses on decapod land crabs, which have independently and convergently colonized land at least seventeen times. Her dissertation research aimed to evolutionarily contextualize, for the first time, their many transitions, and to identify the genetic and physiological changes that have allowed the crabs to overcome the extraordinary adaptive challenges of a life on land. As a Stanford Science Postdoctoral Fellow, she is now working to establish vampire crabs (Geosesarma) as a new model system for exploring terrestrial adaptation in crabs from a developmental perspective. During this seminar, she will discuss both her previous work on the transcriptomic responses of gecarcinid land crabs to desiccation stress and her current studies charting shifts in gene expression through ontogeny in vampire crabs with differing developmental modes. Evolution is often thought of as an unpredictable process, but if distinct lineages independently use similar genes or biochemical pathways to address terrestrial stressors, her work may show that evolution functions predictably in some natural circumstances, which can have major implications on our understanding of basic biological rules. Furthermore, her work may shed light on how key genetic and regulatory changes made life on land possible, thereby potentially opening a window into our own evolutionary history.

Host: Paul Barber