An evolutionary & developmental biology lab

Month: June 2012

Comparative studies of gene expression and the evolution of gene regulation

Another review in the last issue of NRG.  Mainly human/primate work.

“Focusing on work in primates, the authors discuss the evolution of gene expression, ways of exploring mechanisms that underlie expression changes and complementary work in model organisms on the functional effects of expression changes.”

Genomic approaches towards finding cis-regulatory modules in animals

A useful review in NRG. Includes an overview of different bioinformatic and experimental approaches, and a list of useful software and websites.

First birds, now fish – sexual dichromatism promotes species diversity

First there was a report of accelerated speciation in colour-polymorphic birds.  Now, a new paper from Ole Seehausen’s group finds a correlation between sexual dichromatism (a proxy for the intensity of sexual selection???) and the rate of species diversification in the famous African lake cichlids.

Recent Plachetzki Shout-outs

For some reason, everyone really likes Dave’s work on hydras. Here are the recent articles:

Hydra “see” the light – but they don’t have eyes

Blind hydra relies on light to kill prey

UC Davis College of Biological Sciences Alumni Newsletter

Dissecting genomic regulatory elements in vivo

A quick perspective in Nature Biotech:   Three new high-throughput methods allow regulatory sequences to be analyzed at single-nucleotide resolution in living cells.

FRU function in the brain

Here is a new paper from the Yamamoto lab looking at the function of fru in individual brain neurons.  This is is clearest evidence to date that FruM controls sex-specific differentiation on individual neurons through a transcription-dependent mechanisms.  Another interesting possibility emerging from this paper is that the male- and female-specific differentiation programs are “pre-wired” into the neurons, and that FruM is needed to flip the switch between these programs but not to specify either.  This seems remarkably similar to the role of Dsx in the gonad and external genitalia.  Check it out.

Lab hike 2012!

This year we will climb Mt Agassiz in Desolation Wilderness.  With it overhanging, “diving board” summit hanging in the air over the heart of Desolation Valley, Agassiz has arguably the best views in the Tahoe Basin.  Plus, it has an easy (if somewhat long) approach and is non-technical, i. e. can be climbed without any gear.  Here is a picture of the summit:

And here is the view from the summit:

Is it nice or what?

The approach from the trailhead to the base of the mountain is about 6 miles (one way) on a nice, well-maintained, not-steep trail.  The trail ends at a tiny alpine lake above tree line – that will mean fewer mosquitoes.  Those who decide not to climb the mountain can rest, picnic, and go for a swim there (the water will be ice-cold though).

With those who still have the energy and desire to climb, we will leave the trail and hike to the top of the ridge that connects Agassiz to Pyramid Peak, then walk this ridge to the top of Agassiz.  This part of the hike is on broken rock and is steep but completely safe and non-technical.  You may occasionally need your hands for balance, but there’s no climbing involved.  We will eventually come to the summit block that looks like this:

Despite its forbiddng appearance, getting to the top requires nothing more than a straighforward scramble – you will definitely need your hands but there are no technical moves.  Most people will find it easy, but I will bring a rope and other gear just in case and belay anyone who feels uncomfortable at any point.

The top is a completely flat slab of granite that can easily accommodate us all.  We will take a well-deserved break, have lunch, do yoga, lean over edge to enjoy the exposure, etc.  Then we will scramble down to pick up the folks who’ve been cooling their heels on the lake and follow the trail back to the car.  It should not be hard to get back before dark.

More details to follow

Dave receives the UC Davis Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research

It’s official – Dave rocks!  He just got the university-wide award for excellence in postdoctoral research.  It is awarded for, well, “outstanding achievements in the areas of teaching and academic research”.  As fancy as they come.

Study identifies new genes and new neurons involved in contact stimulation and courtship behavior… in flies

In flies, sexually dimorphic behavior is coordinated in part by a dedicated neural circuitry established by Fruitless (Fru).  A handful of receptors, such as GRs and ORs, have been shown to interact with specific pheromones and hydrocarbons and are essential for certain well-known behavioral repertoires in Drosophila.  This paper shows that a pair of pickpocket (ppk) family sodium channels also play essential roles in promoting courtship behavior.  Critically, its still not clear if this ion channel interacts directly with chemical cues from conspecifics, or if it plays a role in some other signal transduction pathway.  It will be interesting to see what closely related paralogues of ppk might exist in drsosophilid taxa with distinct bristle morphologies, and or behavioral phenotypes.

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