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.
- Eye-independent, light-activated chromatophore expansion (LACE) and expression of phototransduction genes in the skin of Octopus bimaculoides
- A multi-gene phylogeny of Cephalopoda supports convergent morphological evolution in association with multiple habitat shifts in the marine environment
- Evidence for light perception in a bioluminescent organ
- Understanding the dermal light sense in the context of integrative photoreceptor cell biology