Convergent Evolution


How do new features evolve? Are new genes or old genes used? Are the same genes used in convergent morphological features? We are interested in examining the history of genes, genetic networks, physiology and development in the context of morphological evolution by using new approaches to understand patterns of gene duplication and gene expression during the evolution of animal genomes. Namely, the history of morphological features can be understood in part as a composite history of the components expressed there, and current technology now allows large-scale analyses of gene expression, even in non-model organisms. We are using next generation sequencing on transcriptomes of mollusks, coupled with quantitative PCR, in situ hybridization, and antibody staining to connect genes and morphology.

In cephalopods (octopuses and squid), we are studying three novelties related to light and vision: photophores (light organs), corneas, and dermal light sensitivity. In chitons (polyplacophorans), we are studying the evolutionary origins of eyes, which are present only in a subset of the group.

Selected Publications

Affiliated Researchers

Our lab addresses the question of how complex traits originate during evolution. We primarily study invertebrate visual systems and eyes, addressing questions like, when did a particular phenotype evolve? When did the components of that phenotype evolve? Where did those components come from? What evolutionary processes and mechanisms were involved?

Cory studies the physiology and evolution of marine invertebrates, especially cnidarians. He applies experimental, bioinformatic, and evolutionary methods to sensory and behavioral traits like light perception and circadian rhythms.

Seth is interested in the molecular evolution of visual systems.

His research focuses on the use of machine learning to explore opsin genotype:phenotype relationships and elucidate the functional evolution of opsins.


Thinking of joining our lab as a graduate student? (Click above)

If you are fascinated by evolution and driven to understand it and communicate what you learn to the world, you might be in the right place! 

Rebecca Varney is interested in the interplay of stress and the evolution of novel traits and works mainly in aquatic invertebrate systems.

Bridget is interested in patterns of convergent evolution in molluscan novelties.