HDR: A. KHILA
Jun 20, 2014
from 02:00 to 05:00
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On Friday, 20th of June Abderrahman KHILA leader of "Developmental Genomics and Evolution" team will support his Habilitation to Supervise Research (Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches). It is entitled:
"Marying evolutionary developmental genetics with ecology for a better understanding of morphological evolution"
His defense is shudeled at 02:00 pm in amphitheater C, ENS, Monod Campus.
Understanding the origin of the remarkable biodiversity in nature is an important goal in biological studies. Despite recent advances in evolutionary developmental biology, our understanding of the interaction between developmental genetic processes and the ecological environment in shaping the phenotype remains largely fragmented. This is mainly because of the difficulty to transfer molecular genetic tools to natural systems where we have a good understanding of the ecology. This research program combines original natural systems, water-walking insects, with state of the art tools of functional and developmental genetics, to study the interplay between developmental genetic pathways and the ecological environment, and how this interaction can shape adaptive phenotypic change. About 200 million years ago, the common ancestor of water-walking insects (Heteroptera, Gerromorpha) invaded water surface and radiated into a diverse array of niches, from shorelines to open oceans. This ecological transition and specialization is associated with an array of adaptive changes that enabled these insects to support their body weight and generate efficient propulsion on the water surface. We have developed a multilevel functional approach that combines developmental and evolutionary genetics, ecology, and comparative genomics and transcriptomics, to study a set of key morphological traits directly associated with the initial event of transition to water surface life, and the diversification that followed. Our goal is to will identify the genes and genetic changes responsible for the development and evolution of a set of key traits that were instrumental in the transition from terrestrial to water surface life. In addition, we aim to reveal how these developmental genetic changes facilitated adaptation, by testing the functional significance of the morphological characters associated with the invasion and diversification of water surface. Results from this project will provide a fresh and unbiased insight into the developmental genetic mechanisms underlying species diversification within the context of their ecological environment. This project will constitute a step forward in evo-devo studies by providing the link between molecular function, phenotypes, and a concrete measure of fitness associated with morphological evolution.