My research examines how biological diversity originates and is maintained through the interactions of multiple levels of biological organization, and in particular, how selection influences the creation and recreation of specific phenotypes, such as eyes. Eyes have evolved over fifty times in animals and encompass a great diversity of form. Despite the many different eye types possessed by animals from jellyfish to humans, the proteins that transform light into a chemical signal or ‘light sensing machinery’ are similar across eyes. Further, some of these proteins necessary for light-sensing in eyes are also found in organs not used for vision. One possible explanation is that the light-sensing machinery used in eyes came from a non-eye origin, like the skin. Thus, learning about the genetic processes that drive the conversion of a non-visual structure to an eye is important to understanding how organisms can re-purpose genetic material to give rise to a new organ and adapt to changing environments. We use an multidisciplinary, comparative approach, incorporating diverse kinds of data ranging from DNA sequences to genetic networks as well as morphology and behavior.
Dr. Jeanne M Serb
Area of Expertise:
Evolution and Development
Ph.D., Biological Sciences, University of Alabama, 2003