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Department of Zoology

 

Wed 01 Feb 13:00: Unravelling 3-dimensional growth in plants

Evolution and Development Seminar Series - Fri, 27/01/2023 - 10:51
Unravelling 3-dimensional growth in plants

The evolution of 3-dimensional (3D) growth coincided with the colonization of land by plants approximately 470 million years ago. The acquisition of apical cells that could cleave in three planes, rather than just one or two, allowed plants to develop the characteristics required to successfully survive and reproduce on land (e.g., roots, vasculature, seeds). 3D growth is an invariable and fundamental feature of all land plants, and the diverse morphologies exhibited across the globe are a result of the differential regulation of 3D growth processes. Yet, we know very little about how 3D growth is regulated at the genetic level. In many plants, 3D growth is initiated during the first few divisions of the zygote, and therefore, the genetic basis cannot be dissected because mutants do not survive. However, in mosses, which are representatives of the earliest land plants, 3D shoot growth is preceded by a 2D filamentous phase that can be maintained indefinitely. Using forward genetics, we have isolated many developmental mutants that fail to establish and/or maintain 3D growth. This has been a powerful and unbiased approach that has enabled us to identify, and functionally characterize novel regulators of the 2D to 3D growth transition. In this talk, I will describe the identification and characterization of our recently generated ‘no gametophores’ mutants.

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Small-scale octopus fisheries can provide sustainable source of vital nutrients for tropical coastal communities

Cam ac uk zoology department feed - Thu, 26/01/2023 - 15:23

Research led by Cambridge scientists, and published in Nature Food, shows that tropical small-scale octopus fisheries offer a sustainable source of food and income to communities that face food insecurity, where the prevalence of undernourishment can exceed 40% and stunting in children under five commonly exceeds 30%. 

The high micronutrient density of octopus - including vitamin B12, copper, iron and selenium - means that human populations only need to eat a small quantity to supplement a diet primarily comprising staple plant crops. The new research shows that just a small amount of production in a tropical small-scale octopus fishery can deliver the micronutrient needs to a relatively large number of people.

The fast growth and adaptability of octopuses to environmental change can also facilitate sustainable production, and catch methods in the fisheries - primarily consisting of hand techniques, small-scale lines, pots and traps - are less environmentally harmful than those of large industrial fishing.

Dr David Willer, lead author, from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow at Murray Edwards College, said: “Worldwide, nearly half of people’s calories come from just three crops – rice, wheat, and maize - which are high energy, but relatively low in key nutrients. Just a small serving of something very, very micronutrient rich, like octopus, can fill critical nutritional gaps. And, of course, if you get better nutrition as a child you’re much more physically and mentally prepared for later life, which can lead to better jobs, better employment and better social development.

“These small fisheries also provide an income and a livelihood, often to women whose economic status is enhanced as a result. Small-scale octopus fisheries revolve around local communities and potentially that gives them a greater resilience against market pressures and other disruptions to global food supply and trade.”

Small-scale fisheries, across all sectors, currently provide more than two-thirds of the fish and seafood destined for human consumption worldwide, and employ over 90% of fishers involved in capture fisheries. 47% of the workforce employed in these fisheries are women.

Based on a global review of data from global seafood databases and published literature, and written in partnership with science-led social enterprise Blue Ventures, the research found that in many cases tropical small-scale octopus fisheries are operating using relatively low impact techniques, and when combined with local and national management approaches can provide a more sustainable source of seafood. Successful approaches include periodic fishery closures, size restrictions, and licences. The need for knowledge transfer of fishing gears is also crucial so that the message on fish sustainability and securing the food supply and economic stability is spread widely. 
 

Undernourished coastal communities in the tropics - where children’s growth can be stunted by a lack of micronutrients – can get the vitamins and minerals they need from sustainable small-scale octopus fisheries, say researchers.

Just a small serving of something very, very micronutrient rich, like octopus, can fill critical nutritional gaps.Dr David Willer, Department of ZoologyBlue Ventures


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

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Small-scale octopus fisheries can provide sustainable source of vital nutrients for tropical coastal communities

Research News - Thu, 26/01/2023 - 15:23

Research led by Cambridge scientists, and published in Nature Food, shows that tropical small-scale octopus fisheries offer a sustainable source of food and income to communities that face food insecurity, where the prevalence of undernourishment can exceed 40% and stunting in children under five commonly exceeds 30%. 

The high micronutrient density of octopus - including vitamin B12, copper, iron and selenium - means that human populations only need to eat a small quantity to supplement a diet primarily comprising staple plant crops. The new research shows that just a small amount of production in a tropical small-scale octopus fishery can deliver the micronutrient needs to a relatively large number of people.

The fast growth and adaptability of octopuses to environmental change can also facilitate sustainable production, and catch methods in the fisheries - primarily consisting of hand techniques, small-scale lines, pots and traps - are less environmentally harmful than those of large industrial fishing.

Dr David Willer, lead author, from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow at Murray Edwards College, said: “Worldwide, nearly half of people’s calories come from just three crops – rice, wheat, and maize - which are high energy, but relatively low in key nutrients. Just a small serving of something very, very micronutrient rich, like octopus, can fill critical nutritional gaps. And, of course, if you get better nutrition as a child you’re much more physically and mentally prepared for later life, which can lead to better jobs, better employment and better social development.

“These small fisheries also provide an income and a livelihood, often to women whose economic status is enhanced as a result. Small-scale octopus fisheries revolve around local communities and potentially that gives them a greater resilience against market pressures and other disruptions to global food supply and trade.”

Small-scale fisheries, across all sectors, currently provide more than two-thirds of the fish and seafood destined for human consumption worldwide, and employ over 90% of fishers involved in capture fisheries. 47% of the workforce employed in these fisheries are women.

Based on a global review of data from global seafood databases and published literature, and written in partnership with science-led social enterprise Blue Ventures, the research found that in many cases tropical small-scale octopus fisheries are operating using relatively low impact techniques, and when combined with local and national management approaches can provide a more sustainable source of seafood. Successful approaches include periodic fishery closures, size restrictions, and licences. The need for knowledge transfer of fishing gears is also crucial so that the message on fish sustainability and securing the food supply and economic stability is spread widely. 
 

Undernourished coastal communities in the tropics - where children’s growth can be stunted by a lack of micronutrients – can get the vitamins and minerals they need from sustainable small-scale octopus fisheries, say researchers.

Just a small serving of something very, very micronutrient rich, like octopus, can fill critical nutritional gaps.Dr David Willer, Department of ZoologyBlue Ventures


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes

Wed 15 Feb 13:00: The origins of land plant complexity: interpreting development in the Devonian

Evolution and Development Seminar Series - Wed, 25/01/2023 - 12:08
The origins of land plant complexity: interpreting development in the Devonian

During the Devonian period c. 420-360 million year ago land plants exploded in complexity, from tiny leafless axes to giant trees, forming the first forests. The diversification of plants in the Devonian therefore transformed the face of the Earth into the green planet we see today. However, the developmental innovations that enabled this diversification and the origin of key plant organs such as leaves and roots remains poorly understood. Comparative investigation of genes and development in living species offers crucial insights into these ancient events. However, 400 million years of subsequent evolution and rife convergence means that fossils still hold the most important lines of evidence for how roots and leaves evolved. In this talk I will outline how taking a combined approach studying fossil plants alongside developmental and genetic networks in living species provides the best approach to understand these key events. Finally, I will describe the importance of fossils with exceptional preservation for giving us a unique glimpse into development in the past.

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Tue 14 Mar 13:00: Freshwater salinization: From Ecology & Evolution to Real-World Solutions This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Freshwater salinization: From Ecology & Evolution to Real-World Solutions

Freshwater resources worldwide are threatened by salinization caused by human activities, particularly in regions of the world using salt to clear roads of snow and ice. Salt applications to roads have been occurring for nearly 80 years, but substantial scientific attention to this issue has only taken off during the past decade and there have been many surprising discoveries. In this seminar, Dr. Relyea will present his group’s research on the ecological impacts of freshwater salinization and the ability of freshwater species to evolve increased salt tolerance. He will also discuss the steps that are being taken to reverse this major environmental problem to protect water bodies, while improving road safety and lowering the cost of snow and ice removal for governments and private applicators.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 07 Mar 13:00: Birds on a tree: Progress and challenges of whole-genome phylogenomics This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Birds on a tree: Progress and challenges of whole-genome phylogenomics

An understanding of the evolutionary relationships among organisms underlies most of what we do in evolutionary biology. Despite considerable progress fueled by new approaches and ever larger datasets, the phylogenetic relationships of some groups are still clouded in uncertainty. A prime example are modern birds, Neoaves, whose relationships remain recalcitrant despite decades of inquiry. As part of the Bird 10,000 Genome Project (B10K), we aimed for a new take on the neoavian phylogeny using whole-genome-wide assessments based on 363 bird genomes. I will discuss which progress this has brought about, and which groups remain challenging to resolve. The sources of these persistent discordances seem to be rooted in a diversity of technical and biological sources. The whole-genome-wide phylogenetic approach points the way for the role of phylogenomics in the coming era of genomes for every living thing.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 28 Feb 13:00: Modern views on the diversity, functional disparity, and structure of Cambrian ecosystems This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Modern views on the diversity, functional disparity, and structure of Cambrian ecosystems

The Cambrian Explosion is one of the most significant biotic events in the history of the Earth. During this time, the complexity of interactions between animals as well as with their environments increased rapidly, in turn leading to more complex community structures. Thus, a clear picture of the structure of Cambrian animal communities is integral to understanding the origins of modern ecosystems. However, relatively few Cambrian fossil sites preserve the total animal community, including the most soft-bodied taxa. Additionally, datasets with high stratigraphic resolution, which are necessary to understand fine scale spatiotemporal gradients, are rare. As a result, fundamental aspects of Cambrian community ecology, such as trophic structure and spatial diversity gradients, remain cryptic. In this seminar, I will present recent work delving into the community ecology of Cambrian marine ecosystems through the lens of some of the best preserved fossil sites in the world. First among these is the celebrated Burgess Shale, located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. For over 100 years, this site has provided unparalleled insights into early animal evolution, but community-scale analyses have been relatively rare. My data shows that the animal communities of the Burgess Shale were highly variable in terms of total diversity, as well as the most abundant ecological modes represented. Further, even localities within the same geological formation have highly distinct fauna, with several indicator species suggesting a degree of species endemism. Broadly, this suggests that some of the earliest complex animal communities were highly variable both spatially and temporally. I then expand the scope of this study to include older Cambrian communities from China, and re-analyze this enlarged dataset through the lens of functional diversity. One of the major results of these analyses is the observation that alpha diversity and functional diversity fluctuate independently of each other, suggesting that typical metrics of biodiversity alone cannot adequately describe the structure of Cambrian communities. Moving forward, integrating more rigorously sampled datasets with time series information and functional traits is necessary to fully understand the ecological dynamics of the earliest complex ecosystems. Further, expanding the temporal scope of this work, particularly to Ediacaran community datasets, is necessary for a more complete understanding of how early animal ecosystems developed.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 14 Feb 13:00: The evolution of a sexually selected syndrome in Mediterranean wall lizards This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

The evolution of a sexually selected syndrome in Mediterranean wall lizards

Traits can only function together if expressed together, but the evolution of such phenotypic integration remains poorly understood. In this talk, I will present our recent work on the evolutionary origin and geographic spread of a sexually selected syndrome in wall lizards. Climatic effects on the strength of sexual selection causes a mosaic of phenotypic variation across the landscape, and promotes asymmetric introgression into a distantly related lineage. The phenotypic integration of color, morphology, and behavior persists throughout a hybrid zone, pointing towards a genetic architecture with a single or few major loci. Analyses of genomic data supports this hypothesis and reveals a single candidate region with striking structural variations. I discuss how this genomic architecture can orchestrate the co-expression of color, morphology, and behavior, and what it can teach us about the evolution of complex phenotypes.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 07 Feb 13:00: Is it the weather or the neighbours? The role of the physical and biotic environment in determining biodiversity distributions. This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Is it the weather or the neighbours? The role of the physical and biotic environment in determining biodiversity distributions.

Species’ niches are constrained by abiotic conditions like climate and land-use, and by biotic interactions like consumption, competition, and facilitation. However, abiotic and biotic conditions do not act in isolation. The interplay between them drives species distributions, abundances, population dynamics, community structure, evolutionary trajectories, and how biodiversity responds to environmental change. I’ll explore new methods, data, and conceptual approaches for measuring biotic and abiotic drivers of biodiversity patterns at local and global scales. I’ll draw on work done by several members of my research group, FABio – Fundamental and Applied Biogeography.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 31 Jan 13:00: Seeing through the noise: how fish use visual information to navigate in challenging conditions This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Seeing through the noise: how fish use visual information to navigate in challenging conditions

Navigation, or the ability to accurately and efficiently determine one’s position relative to a goal, underpins many important behaviours. For aquatic animals, visually-guided navigation underwater comes with particular challenges. In addition to an extended range of movement along both the vertical and horizontal axes compared to most terrestrial animals, the appearance of visual cues can change rapidly due to the behaviour of light in water (e.g. attenuation, wave-induced flicker, low-light), reducing the accuracy of landmark identification. In this talk, I will discuss what we can learn from laboratory experiments about the mechanism of visual navigation, including object recognition, distance estimation, and route planning. I will also explore how we can use recent advances in computer vision and photogrammetry to understand the navigation behaviour of wild fish moving within their complex natural environments.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Research data supporting 'Pollen-feeding delays reproductive senescence and maintains toxicity of Heliconius butterflies'

Research output from Zoology (trial) - Thu, 19/01/2023 - 16:13
Research data supporting 'Pollen-feeding delays reproductive senescence and maintains toxicity of Heliconius butterflies' Pinheiro De Castro, Erika; McPherson, Josie; Julian, Glennis; Mattila, Anniina; Bak, Søren; Montgomery, Stephen; Jiggins, Chris The dataset has information about Heliconius erato demophoon butterflies fed for 14d (young) and 45d (old) on three different diets: sugar only (N); sugar + supplement (C) ; sugar + pollen from flowers (F). These experiments were set up with 8 males and 8 females of similar size (~3 cm of forewing radius) per treatment (diet/age). At the end of the experiment, females were individually assay for fertility: number of laid eggs recorded and the total eggs per females collected for quantification of cyanogenic glucosides (CG) using target-metabolomic (HPLC-MS/MS). Recently ecloded butterflies (0d, unfed) was also collected as a baseline. All butterflies were also weighted and collected for target metabolomics at the end of the experiment.

Wed 01 Mar 13:00: Title to be confirmed

Evolution and Development Seminar Series - Wed, 18/01/2023 - 14:17
Title to be confirmed

Abstract not available

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Wed 15 Feb 13:00: Title to be confirmed

Evolution and Development Seminar Series - Wed, 18/01/2023 - 14:17
Title to be confirmed

Abstract not available

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Wed 01 Feb 13:00: Title to be confirmed

Evolution and Development Seminar Series - Wed, 18/01/2023 - 14:16
Title to be confirmed

Abstract not available

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Wed 08 Mar 13:00: Title to be confirmed

Evolution and Development Seminar Series - Wed, 18/01/2023 - 14:16
Title to be confirmed

Abstract not available

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Wed 08 Feb 13:00: Reconstructing brain evolution, one cell at the time

Evolution and Development Seminar Series - Wed, 18/01/2023 - 14:10
Reconstructing brain evolution, one cell at the time

Abstract not available

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