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Development and evolution of vertebrate electroreceptors

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Electroreception is an ancient vertebrate sense with a fascinating evolutionary history involving multiple losses as well as independent evolution at least twice within teleosts. This sense is mediated by modified hair cells similar to those found in the inner ear and in the lateral line neuromasts of fishes and amphibians. Our goal is to understand the development and evolution of vertebrate electroreceptors, including the independent evolution of teleost electroreceptors, by studying their embryological origins, and the genes expressed during their development, in a range of vertebrate species. I will discuss several lines of evidence that support the homology of non-teleost electroreceptors, including recent fate-mapping studies from our lab demonstrating a lateral line placode origin for electroreceptors in both a basal ray-finned fish (paddlefish) and a cartilaginous fish (little skate). Focusing primarily on data from paddlefish, I will also present findings from a transcriptomic ‘screen’ aimed at identifying genes involved in electroreceptor development and function. Using these approaches, we are beginning to reveal the extent to which molecular mechanisms of electroreceptor development are conserved both across different electoreceptive taxa (including teleosts) and with mechanosensory hair cell development.

This talk is part of the Evolution and Development Seminar Series series.

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