Vertebrate head development
Arkhat Abzhanov, from Imperial College London in UK, will give a talk about "Developmental Evolution of the Animal Face: evolvability, heterochrony and novelty". Title will be announced later. More about Arkhat Abzhanov at the Imperial College London's web.
Understanding the origins of morphological variation is one of the chief challenges to the modern biological sciences. Cranial diversity in vertebrates is a particularly inviting research topic as animal heads and faces show many dramatic and unique adaptive features which reflect their natural history. We aim to reveal molecular mechanisms underlying evolutionary processes that generate such morphological variation. To this purpose, we employ a synergistic combination of geometric morphometrics, comparative molecular embryology and functional experimentation methods to trace cranial evolution in reptiles, birds and mammals, some of the most charismatic animals on our planet. Our research is revealing how particular changes in developmental genetics can produce morphological alterations for natural selection to act upon, for example in generating adaptive radiations.