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Evolution of biological complexity and multicellular phototaxis

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Raymond E. Goldstein Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics University of Cambridge

One of the most fundamental questions in biology concerns the nature of evolutionary transitions from totipotent single-cell organisms to multicellular ones with cell specialization. The Volvocine green algae serve as a model for the study of this issue, as they comprise species ranging from unicellular Chlamydomonas to multicellular Volvox containing thousands of cells, and exhibiting terminal germ-soma differentiation.

Among the most important aspects of multicellular life is the coordinated beating of the thousands of flagella, two per somatic cell, which results in phototaxis despite the lack of a central nervous system. In this talk I will describe our recent work on understanding the dynamics of phototaxis and of the cooperative beating of flagella, using a synthesis of laboratory experiments and ideas from dynamical systems theory.

This talk is part of the Networks & Neuroscience series.

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