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Adaptive Phototaxis and Evolutionary Transitions to Multicellularity

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Oliver Shorttle.

101 lectures take place once per term, and cover topics in planetary science and life in the Universe. All lectures start at 1:30pm and are preceded by lunch (from 12:30pm).

Abstract: One of the most fundamental issues in biology is the nature of the driving forces that underlie evolutionary transitions from unicellular to multicellular organisms. Volvocine green algae serve as model organisms for this problem, as they span from the unicellular biflagellate Chlamydomonas to multicellular species of Volvox that can have up to 50,000 Chlamydomonas-like cells arranged on the surface of a spherical extracellular matrix. In these species, the mechanism of phototaxis is of particular interest since the organisms have neither a nervous system nor intercellular cytoplasmic connections; the ability to steer is therefore a consequence of the response of individual cells to light. In this talk I will discuss experimental and theoretical studies of the mechanism of phototaxis in Chlamydomonas, Gonium (a 16-cell organism with a plate-like structure) and Volvox which, take together, illustrate the existence of an evolutionarily conserved tuning between the adaptive timescale for flagellar photoresponse and the period of organism rotation around a body-fixed axis. These results give insight into the cellular changes necessary in evolutionary transitions to multicellularity.

This talk is part of the LCLU 101 Lectures series.

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