Saturday, June 13, 2009

Evolution2009: Saturday

I must be jetlagged, because I got very little sleep last night. Yeah, definitely jetlag. This summary will be short. I spent almost the whole day in little 15 minute science talks.

I kicked off the day learning about placentation evolution in Poeciliopsis, egg dimorphism in penguins, the weird soldier caste of Copidosoma wasps, and plasticity in flesh flies, among other topics.

My favorite talk of the morning was given by Diya Sen from the University of Idaho describing her ongoing project to sequence 100 promiscuous plasmids. Promiscuous or broad host range plasmids can be transfered between many species of bacteria. They can also carry useful phenotypes like toxic metal metabolism or antibiotic resistance. She only described 13 plasmids from Scandinavian mercury-resistant bacteria. Not surprisingly, there was pretty large variation in gene content in the plasmids. There was also evidence of sequence divergence, as much as 25-50% different between plasmids that nevertheless contained the same core complement of genes. Cool stuff. Can't wait to hear more.

After lunch, I heard talks about Galapagos weevils, Pacific geckos, and cave fish. The highlight of the afternoon was Harvard's Scott Edwards describing the spread of Mycoplasma gallisepticum from poultry into house finches in 1994. Nine years later, finches were more resistant and the gallisepticum attenuated. His lab has studied these pathogen genomes to understand the evolution of this novel bird/bacteria interaction. Especially interesting was the evidence of selection in certain gallisepticum genes and the loss of the CRISPR phage control mechanism in the 2007 gallisepticum strains.

I bailed out at about 4:00, since I was starting to nod off in the talks. Gotta get some actual sleep tonight. No sense coming all this way to sleep during the presentations.