19 June 2015
Department of Biology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
One of biology's most significant unresolved problems is to understand how novel, complex traits originate – both developmentally and evolutionarily – and how they subsequently diversify. A growing number of biologists have begun to ask whether environmentally initiated phenotypic change – developmental plasticity – precedes, and even facilitates evolutionary innovation and diversification. However, there are few empirical tests of this "plasticity first" hypothesis. In my talk, I will discuss how we have been able to test these ideas in natural populations of spadefoot toads, which have emerged as a model system for studying developmental plasticity in the wild. I will also explore the possible genetic mechanisms by which such developmental flexibility might evolve in the first place. Generally, developmental plasticity might play a largely underappreciated role in the evolution of novel, complex traits, the evolution of species differences, and even the formation of new species.
current theory lunch schedule