20 January 2009

Shameless self-promotion

I have a new review article out that has strong ties to this website, although it's not apparent from reading the article. So here's the scientific equivalent of a deleted scene on a movie DVD.

The review concerns the evolution of giant neurons responsible for escape responses in decapod crustaceans. This line of research, mostly using crayfish, was particularly fruitful in the 1970s and 1980s, but research on the escape system has waned to some degree since then. This is not to say there hasn't been good science on these neurons – there has – but I think it's fair to say less prominent than it was.

In writing the article, I thought a lot about why this line of research has waned, and what remains undone with research on the escape system. This is a paragraph from an earlier draft of the manuscript (written about January 2007) that didn't make it into the final published edit.

The revolutions in genetics and development have barely touched crustacean research when compared to other organisms. Currently, only one crustacean, the non-decapod Daphnia pulex (Colbourne et al. 2005), is having its genome sequenced, in comparison to about a dozen genome projects for insects besides Drosophila. Similarly, decapod crustaceans have not been favoured for research on development. The powerful molecular tools of genetics and evo-devo would surely illuminate the patterns of evolutionary change in the escape circuit and provide strong evidence for questions such as whether the G. strigosa MoGH is truly homologous to the crayfish MoG. Thus, a major goal for crustacean neurobiologists should be to bring modern molecular tools to bear much more forcefully.

It's those two sentences -- sentence and a half, really -- that lead me into Marmorkrebs research. I thought that understanding the development of the giant neurons would be very interesting and informative about the variation of the neural circuit across different crustacean species. And when I started to think about how I might get my hands on a lot of embryos, it seemed that Marmorkrebs had the greatest potential to be an organism that would allow me to study neural development.

That was how I got into this game. I got my first Marmorkrebs later that year.

And a lot more people should read my article. (The title of this post is "Shameless self-promotion," after all.)


Colbourne J, Singan V, Gilbert D. 2005 wFleaBase: the Daphnia genome database. BMC Bioinformatics 6: 45. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-6-45

Faulkes Z. 2008. Turning loss into opportunity: The key deletion of an escape circuit in decapod crustaceans. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 72: 251-261. doi: 10.1159/000171488

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