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October 20, 2021

12:00pm, PST 158 HH and Zoom

Aide Macias-Muñoz
University of California, Santa Barbara

" Conservation or Convergence: Complex trait evolution in Cnidaria "

Understanding the genetic underpinnings of complex trait evolution is central to the study of evolutionary biology. A leading question in this field is: how similar or different are genes that encode complex traits between species? Historically, researchers have postulated a deep homology and functional conservation of developmental genes. However, my past and current research on lepidopteran and cnidarian visual systems leads me to hypothesize that complex traits can evolve using orthologs, paralogs, and co-option of different genes. Cnidaria is a sister group to Bilateria thus studies in this group can inform us about genes and pathways that were present before the Cnidaria/Bilateria split. One fascinating trait in cnidarians is that they are capable of tissue regeneration. A proposed model for regeneration, Hydra, is capable of full head regeneration. Using RNA-seq, we have identified genes that are different between Hydra head development and regeneration. Using scRNA-seq, we have found the candidate cellular composition and molecular signaling of the head organizer. Another remarkable trait in cnidarians is that of eye evolution. Eyes have independently evolved in cnidarians at least 8 times. By comparing the expression of eye and vision-related genes, we found that convergent cnidarian eyes are likely using a mixture of similar and different genes for eye development and phototransduction. Studies in Cnidaria illuminate some of the ways that organisms utilize their genetic code to create extraordinary complex traits.


Seminar will be presented live, in-person, in

Hershey Hall, Room 158

Seminar will also be live-streamed via Zoom

Host: Paul Barber