Friday Harbor Lab Tide Bites

Posted March 6, 2021 at 4:30 am by

From “Bugs” to Shrimp: the Saga of an Evolving Nervous System

By Jim Tru­man, Fri­day Har­bor Labs

Things can change a lot in 60 years.

I grew up with a fas­ci­na­tion both with inver­te­brates and water, but liv­ing in north­east­ern Ohio, the inver­te­brates I knew were insects and the water was the fresh stuff in Lake Erie.

My ama­teur inter­ests in col­lect­ing insects turned to a fas­ci­na­tion with their biol­o­gy while I was an under­grad­u­ate at Notre Dame, and solid­i­fied into a life-long career with my PhD from Har­vard. I thought that insect diver­si­ty was rich enough to keep me occu­pied for a life­time, yet six­ty years lat­er I find myself study­ing their rel­a­tives, the crustaceans.

In the last 60 years, there has also been a change in our under­stand­ing of the rela­tion­ship of the var­i­ous class­es with­in the Arthro­po­da, the phy­lum of ani­mals with an exoskele­ton and joint­ed limbs.

Ear­ly on, I had learned that there were three main branch­es in the arthro­pod fam­i­ly tree – the Che­licer­a­ta (spi­ders and their kin), the Crus­tacea, and the Tra­chea­ta (arthro­pods with sin­gle-branched limbs includ­ing insects, cen­tipedes, and millipedes).

Over the decades, though, a num­ber of lines of evi­dence includ­ing the increas­ing pow­er of mol­e­c­u­lar tools upend­ed this view and showed that the insects were not relat­ed to the cen­tipedes and mil­li­pedes after all, but arose from with­in the Crustacea.

The com­bined group is now called the Pan­crus­tacea. This revi­sion of arthro­pod rela­tion­ships is sim­i­lar to our new appre­ci­a­tion of rela­tion­ships with­in the ver­te­brates, as we now know that birds are actu­al­ly a group of fly­ing dinosaurs! As it turned out, I had actu­al­ly been work­ing on a spe­cial­ized type of crus­tacean through­out my entire career and did not know it! Our research on crus­taceans began in earnest in the Spring of 2003 when Lynn Rid­di­ford and I accept­ed an invi­ta­tion from Den­nis Wil­lows to teach a Research Appren­tice­ship at FHL. By the end of the quar­ter, we had bought a house on the island, and were “hooked.”


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Categories: Science

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