PhD Position in Evolution and Development of Electric Organs

Many studies have elucidated the genetic and developmental processes underlying major vertebrate traits (fins, limbs, etc) in extant lineages. Most of these traits have evolved only once, limiting insights into the degree of constraint and repeatability of the evolutionary processes. In contrast with most other vertebrate traits, there have been six independent origins of electrogenesis, the ability to generate electric discharges from an electric organ, within fishes. Despite their clear benefit as a model for understanding general principles of parallel evolution of complex vertebrate tissues, we know little about the molecular and developmental processes underlying this tissue. In every group that has evolved electrogenesis, electric organs originate during development from skeletal muscle. The long-term goal of the Electric Fish Laboratory at Michgian State (http://efish.zoology.msu.edu) laboratories is to characterize the evolutionary steps that have occurred to modify the developmental program in skeletal muscle to give rise to the electric organ. A recent study (Gallant et al. 2014, Science) identified suites of genes in four species, representing three independent origins of electrogenesis, which appear to be critical n the evolution of electric organs. Using cutting edge techniques in evolution and development (including transgenics, genomics and molecular biology), we plan to test hypotheses concerning the roles of these genes in the evolution of electric organs.

Ideal candidates for this position are high achieving, creative, and independent. Training will combine cutting edge techniques in genomics, bioinformatics molecular biology and animal behavior. Michigan State University (MSU) is a world-class research university, providing world-class computing and genomics resources. Set in the college town of East Lansing, the area features a low cost of living as well as ideal surroundings for nature lovers and sports fanatics alike. Prospective applicants can be supported through several interdepartmental graduate programs, including a top-ranked program in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior (http://eebb.msu.edu), as well as genetics (http://genetics.msu.edu). Students will be encouraged to participate in a one-of-a-kind NSF-sponsored BEACON center for the study of evolution in action (http://beacon-center.org), for which MSU is the host institution. Successful candidates will be supported through a combination of research assistantships and teaching assistantships, and highly qualified may be eligible for additional support through competitive fellowships at the University level.

Applications to MSU either graduate program in Biomolecular Science or Zoology is due December 1st, 2014. Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to send inquiries in advance of this deadline to Dr. Jason Gallant (jgallant@msu.edu) for more information concerning this position, as well as guidance on the most appropriate graduate program to apply through.

 

Posted in In the Lab

PhD Position in Genomics of Animal Communication

The relative contribution of divergent natural selection and sexual selection on communication signals in the evolution of reproductive isolation is a central question in biology. Progress is limited by poor knowledge of how divergent communication signals originate at the genetic, cellular, and morphological levels, as well as difficulty connecting population level processes prior to speciation with the macroevolutionary patterns of diversity observed after speciation is completed. The more than 200 nominal species of mormyrids are ideally suited for circumventing such problems, producing easily measured and quantified electric discharge signals (EODs), which have a discrete anatomical and physiological basis. EOD signals are typically species-specific and have been demonstrated to be a necessary component of courtship behavior, particularly for a rapidly evolved “species flock” of mormyrids in the genus Paramormyrops. The Electric Fish Lab at Michigan State University (http://efish.zoology.msu.edu) has recently focused on linking these macroevolutionary patterns of electric signal diversity to population-level processes. We have identified a key species to use newly developed techniques in evolutionary genomics to identify genes responsible for macroevolutionary patterns of electric signal diversity, critical in the speciation process.

Ideal candidates for this position are high achieving, creative, and independent. Training will combine cutting edge techniques in genomics, bioinformatics molecular biology and animal behavior. Michigan State University (MSU) is a world-class research university, providing world-class computing and genomics resources. Set in the college town of East Lansing, the area features a low cost of living as well as ideal surroundings for nature lovers and sports fanatics alike. Prospective applicants can be supported through several interdepartmental graduate programs, including a top-ranked program in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior (http://eebb.msu.edu), as well as genetics (http://genetics.msu.edu). Students will be encouraged to participate in a one-of-a-kind NSF-sponsored BEACON center for the study of evolution in action (http://beacon-center.org), for which MSU is the host institution. Successful candidates will be supported through a combination of research assistantships and teaching assistantships, and highly qualified may be eligible for additional support through competitive fellowships at the University level.

Applications to MSU either graduate program in Biomolecular Science or Zoology are due December 1st, 2014. Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to send inquiries in advance of this deadline to Dr. Jason Gallant (jgallant@msu.edu) for more information concerning this position, as well as guidance on the most appropriate graduate program to apply through.

Posted in In the Lab

Nicole Thompson Joins The Lab!

Nicole Thompson (MSU Zoology, Class of 2015) has joined the lab. Welcome Nicole!

Posted in In the Lab

Welcome to Sophia, Justin, and Sarah!

We are excited to have three wonderful undergraduates working with us this summer– Sophia Sdao, Justin Rucinski, and Sarah Sam.  We will be working together on developing much needed software programs and data analysis procedures for our many exciting projects.  Stay tuned!

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Posted in In the Lab

Dr. Gallant on the Mid-Michigan Pet Expert Talk Show

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Dr. Gallant was the guest for the Mid-Michigan Pet Show on Saturday April 19th!  We had a long conversation about the Gallant lab’s research on electric fish, as well as the genetics behind Glofish.  Click “play” below to listen to the full interview, or go to this link to find it and other great interviews in the archives!

Many thanks to Rick Preuss and Lee Cohen for a very enjoyable time on the Radio!

Be sure to “like” the Mid-Michigan Pet show on Facebook!

Posted in In the Lab

Dr. Gallant lectures at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit

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Dr. Gallant will be talking about his research on Electric Fish genomics at the Belle Isle Aquarium this weekend– feel free to stop in!  For more information please see:

http://belleisleconservancy.org/ai1ec_event/science-saturday-electric-fish-era-genome-sequencing/?instance_id=759

Posted in In the Lab

Hatching and eye development

As another day ticks by, we see that the larva has developed still further, hatching from its chorion. The eyes are now dark and pigmented and can be clearly made out along with the ears.  The dark mass in the center of the head is the brain, and you can follow the CNS through the entire body of the animal.   You may also notice that the embryo is noticeably “darker” than yesterday– the process of melanogenesis has begun.  The animals are a dark brown color normally, and this pigmentation process will continue for the next several days.  Tomorrow, we will see more definition in the fins and the body shape start to more closely resemble the adult fish.

Now the eye is clearly visible as the dark spot in the center of view, and the head and brain can be seen through the developing skull.

Now the eye is clearly visible as the dark spot in the center of view, and the head and brain can be seen through the developing skull.

You can see that the tail and fins are becoming more defined.  The tail is now sticking out of the chorion-- though in this particular indidivual, the head has not escaped yet!

You can see that the tail and fins are becoming more defined. The tail is now sticking out of the chorion– though in this particular indidivual, the head has not escaped yet!

Posted in In the Lab

Getting Ready to Hatch!

Here we go! The eggs have developed another day, and now the body parts are in full definition. Viewing under the microscope, you can see blood pumping through the circulatory system in vivid detail, as well as lots of movement of the fish embryo as it gets ready to push its way through the eggshell (chorion) and into the world! Also notable are the otic vesicles, the ears of the fish, which show up as a pair of dark circles on the sides of the larval head. While the eye is formed, it is not pigmented yet. In about another day, the eye will be visible. Enjoy!

You can see the future ear (show by arrow) notice how the tail is now fully free of the yolk sac, compared to before.  Powerful full body movements and a weak eggshell (chorion) mean that this fish is ready to hatch!

You can see the future ear (show by arrow) notice how the tail is now fully free of the embryo. Powerful full body movements and a weak eggshell (chorion) mean that this fish is ready to hatch!

The fish is moving quite a bit inside the egg shell-- this is a series of three shots showing the fish changing positions

The fish is moving quite a bit inside the egg shell– this is a series of three shots showing the fish changing positions

Posted in In the Lab

We’ve got somites!

Here’s a nice image– after developing through the evening in our incubators, a much higher proportion of embryos have survived! You can clearly see many little spinal cords in our petri dishes now. Here is a close-up of what we are seeing…

A Brienomyrus brachysitus larva has completed gastrulation-- the basic body plan of the fish is now visible, with the head clearly visible at the arrow.  Spontaneous movement is already occurring.

A Brienomyrus brachysitus larva has completed gastrulation– the basic body plan of the fish is now visible, with the head clearly visible at the arrow. Spontaneous movement is already occurring.

Posted in Uncategorized

Early Electric Fish Development

It’s starting! We’ve got another batch of fertilized eggs, now here at the lab instead of our satellite facility– they are developing more comfortably at highly controlled temperatures in our new incubator. You can see one of our new eggs here, about 14 hours after fertilization.

In fish, development is discoidal meaning that the entire egg doesn’t divide, rather a thin layer of cells on the “top” of the egg– this portion is called the blastodisc. The cells of the developing fish are located in the upper right hand portion of the image. As development continues, this layer of cells will “flatten” and eventually encircle the yolk of the egg. As the cells divide more and more, they start to move (or epiboly)toward the “bottom” of the egg through a process known as gastrulation. Lewis Wolpert famously said “It is not birth, marriage, or death, but gastrulation which is truly the most important time in your life.” How true! As this process moves to about halfway down the cell in a few hours, the cells that will eventually become all major organ systems will have begun to differentiate. Eventually, the blastula will complete epiboly sometime tomorrow morning, and the first signs of a discernible fish will be visible.

Stay tuned!!

A developing Brienomyrus egg about 14 hours after fertilization.  You can clearly see the blastula (top left) slowly encircling the droplet filled yolk mass in the center of the egg.

A developing Brienomyrus egg about 14 hours after fertilization. You can clearly see the blastula (top right) slowly encircling the droplet filled yolk mass in the center of the egg.

Posted in In the Lab