Monday, June 20, 2011

Evolution 2011: Monday

Today's sessions had quite a number of talks that interested me. Bruce Deagle enlightened me about the stickleback species in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Sticklebacks are fish that are a pretty common model organism in evolutionary studies. He's using SNP genotyping to learn about parallel evolution in lake and stream forms, which he explains nicely on his website.

Next, Todd Castoe updated us on the progress of the python genome project. That's a really interesting system to work with, since python metabolism can change so dramatically (including drastic organ growth) just after feeding. Updates can be found at www.snakegenomics.org.

In the afternoon, I was fascinated by Julie Urban's presentation on the endosymbionts of planthoppers. The subject of her talk was the co-evolution of symbiont and host, but I was more taken with the system itself. She's looking primarily at planthopper species with more than one species of endosymbiont, and they're really intriguing. I tried to scribble down as much as I could about them, but I'm going to have to go back and look up more information about them. What struck me was the amino acid synthesis capabilities. Where one endosymbiont species would have only genes for synthesis of some essential amino acids, the other endosymbiont species could synthesize the others. So it was a complementary endosymbiosis. Really amazing stuff.

After the afternoon break, I really enjoyed the successive talks on the fish Poecilia mexicana from RĂ¼diger Riesch and Michael Tobler. Riesch talked about cave adaptations, and Tobler presented convergent evolution for head size in fish found in sulfide-rich springs. There's quite a lot of info on this system on their homepages: Riesch and Tobler. It's definitely worth looking into.

So that was my Monday. Lots of interesting ideas and things to think about.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.