I am broadly interested in the evolution of cooperation and complexity, particularly evolutionary transitions in individuality such as the evolution of multicellularity. My research on the evolution of multicellularity focuses on the genetic basis of multicellularity and the adaptive benefit of soma using the volvocine green algae as a model system.
The volvocine green algae are an incredible model system for the evolution of multicellularity. They include unicellular species (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, panel A), undifferentiated colonial species (Gonium pectorale, 8-16 cells, panel B; Eudorina elegans, 16-32 cells, panel C), species with differentiated somatic cells (Pleodorina californica, 64-128 cells, panel D) and species with differentiated somatic and germ cells (Volvox, 5,000+ cells, panels E-F). In addition, they have developed genetic tools, multiple published genomes, are recently diverged (~200 million years ago), and have obvious morphological homologies between unicellular and multicellular species. Plus, they’re gorgeous!
Understanding the genomic basis of multicellularity
– When did the basis for multicellularity for multicellularity evolve?
– Was this genetic basis novel or co-opted from ancestral genetic pathways?
– What role does cell cycle regulation play in early group-level adaptations?
Understanding the evolutionary history of genetic basis of cellular differentiation
– When did the genetic basis of somatic cells evolve?
– Is this genetic basis novel or co-opted from ancestral genetic pathways?
Integrating mathematical models of cellular differentiation into current frameworks
– Are recent mathematical models consistent with previous frameworks?
– Where have recent models focuses and how does this guide future research?