Regulation and evolution of phenotypic plasticity: insights from horned beetles and predatory nematodes
Dr. Sofia Casasa, Boston University
Abstract: Plasticity, an individual’s ability to adjust its phenotype in response to environmental factors, is a ubiquitous property of developmental systems. I aim to understand plasticity across multiple levels of biological organization, its mechanisms and how evolution of plasticity shapes phenotypic diversity. I use two model systems (horned beetles and predatory nematodes) that both exhibit an extreme form of plasticity (polyphenism) to understand the mechanisms and consequences of environmentally sensitive development. In this talk, I will dive into the developmental, genetic and genomic mechanisms that underlie developmental plasticity and their evolution. I will also talk about how gene networks underlying novel traits originated in the first place and discuss some of my future research. Overall, I focus on the mechanisms and evolution of plasticity to understand the complex and context dependent relationship between development and environment that shapes the enormous diversity of organismal forms.