November 16, 2013

Congratulations to Des Ramirez for winning the 2013 AMS student research fellowship for his work on extra ocular photoreception in Mollusks.

Image of Oakley presentation
September 04, 2013

Recordings from the Third Annual Spring Symposium, Genome-scale Phylogenetics, hosted by NMNH’s Frontiers in Phylogenetics Program 

July 01, 2013
  • Congratulations to Emily Ellis and the other winners of the 2013 Sys Biol Grad Research Award! 
  • Congratulations to Andrew Swafford and the other 2013 Rosemary Grant Award Winners!
February 15, 2013

Elizabeth Pennisi has written an article about the SICB symposium organized by Todd Oakley and former lab member Jeanne Serb, now a professor at Iowa State University. The article highlights recent findings from our lab and other labs, showing that several animals showing that opsins are used not only in eyes, but in other contexts as well. Our lab is working on extraocular photoreceptors in Cnidaria, Cephalopoda, and Polyplacophora.

Sponge eye artificial color
April 12, 2012

Our research was summarized in Nature magazine.

Their tentacles, contain stinging cells (shown here in red) that aid in movement, defense, and predation. Credit: David Plachetzki
March 05, 2012

 What good is half an eye? Evolutionary biologists studying the origins of vision get that question a lot, and new research out of UC Santa Barbara points to a possible answer. Findings appearing today in the journal BMC Biology indicate that, even in the absence of eyes altogether, some creatures display a light-sensitivity that uses the same visual pathway that allows humans to see.

Head of Daphnia pulex (commonly called water flea). Credit: Christian Laforsch
February 03, 2011

The water flea –– Daphnia pulex –– has the largest inventory of genes ever recorded for a sequenced animal, according to a new study in the journal Science by 69 co-authors. An international team effort to sequence the genome of the water flea included work by UC Santa Barbara biologists.

Daphnia is the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced. The study found that it contains more than 31,000 genes. By comparison, humans have only about 23,000 genes.

Marine sponge known as Amphimedon queenslandica.
August 04, 2010

This week's publication of the complete genomic sequence of a living marine sponge reveals genes dating back hundreds of millions of years –– a result far exceeding the expectations of the scientific world.

Hydra, an ancient sea creature that flourishes today.
March 11, 2010

By studying the hydra, a member of an ancient group of sea creatures that is still flourishing, scientists at UC Santa Barbara have made a discovery in understanding the origins of human vision. The finding is published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal of biology.

Hydra are simple animals that, along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria. Cnidarians first emerged 600 million years ago.

Hawaiian Bobtail Squid. Credit: University of Wisconsin
June 11, 2009

Scientists have found that a small Hawaiian squid can hide itself by using an organ with the same genes found in its eye.

Using a process called bioluminescence, the squid can light up its underside to match the surrounding light from the sun. This disguises the squid in much the same way that it discharges black ink to cloak itself. The study was recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.