Evolution of mineralized skeleton in planktonic larvae of echinoderms

Theme: Evolution & Adaptation

Primary Supervisor:

Paola Oliveri

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Project Description:

How the genome encodes for complex morphological character and how changes in genetic information relate to changes in morphological structures is a fundamental problem in biology.

Echinoderm larval endoskeleton provides and ideal system where to address such a question because: 1) the presence and extension of larval skeleton has a great degree of variation in modern species; 2) the genetic program as well as skeleton composition is one of the best-studied processes in sea urchin biology and provides an excellent starting point.

In this project we will compare the genetic program for skeletogenesis in larvae of different echinoderm classes using an integration of transcriptomic, gene expression, morphological and gene specific phylogenetic data.

Policy Impact of Research:

This project will provide fundamental insights into different ways to evolve complex morphological structures and could also reveal important aspects of different sensitivity of echinoderm planktonic larvae to rapid environmental changes.

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