"Evolution of the Animal Face: From Principles to Mechanisms” by Arkhat Abzhanov, Ph.D., Department of Evolutionary and Organismic Biology, Harvard University
1100 Terasaki Life Sciences Building [TLSB]
Understanding the causes of animal diversity is one of the chief challenges to the modern biological science. Cranial diversity in vertebrates is particularly interesting as differences in their heads are adaptive and reflect earlier evolutionary transitions. My group is studying normal and abnormal craniofacial development in laboratory and wild species as well as human craniofacial diseases. For example, some of our projects trace the origin of the unique avian skull and face from the reptilian (dinosaur) ancestral condition and genetic mechanisms for the further elaboration of the highly adaptive and enormously diverse beak shapes. Living birds are the largest group of land vertebrates, and without the distinct ‘new snout’ the avian radiation may not have been as extensive. To gain such mechanistic understanding of morphogenesis and evolutionary processes that generate morphological variation, we take a cross-disciplinary approach that integrates the three devo-evo research components and combine advances from disparate fields, e.g. phylogenetics, genomics, paleontology, morphometrics, cell biology, and developmental genetics.
HOST: Barney Schlinger