Evolution and Development of the Metazoans

Friday Harbor Laboratories
University of Washington

July 16, 2001 to August 18, 2001



Advances in molecular systematics, paleontology, and morphological interpretation have significantly reshaped our understanding of metazoan phylogeny revising the framework for comparative analyses. When this new framework is combined with advances in developmental biology that allow patterns and processes to be dissected in unprecedented detail, we are able to gain new insights allowing existing hypotheses of body plan evolution to be tested, as well as novel hypotheses to be generated. Because metazoans use similar signaling molecules and transcription factors during morphological development, cloning and expression of homologous genes in different organisms allows one to test predictions about how evolutionary processes work during embryonic development.

During this course, we plan to review hypotheses of metazoan phylogeny and have the students learn the basics of molecular systematics through hands on manipulation of empirical data. We will also learn how to examine temporal and spatial expression of developmental genes by in situ hybridization. This work will be placed in a context of exploring hypotheses about metazoan body plan evolution. Finally, we will encourage students to complete a mini-project, where they examine a question about morphological evolution that employs phylogeny, morphology and gene expression. We will emphasize functional morphology, and we hope to stimulate students to think in terms of why certain morphologies evolve repeatedly in marine organisms.



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