The following is a guest post by Ornob Alam, a graduate student in Michael Purugganan’s lab at New York University. Ornob’s PhD projects examine the demographic and evolutionary history of domesticated Asian rice in the context of past climate change and human migrations; he is on Twitter as @genomeinquirer.
Female ocean sunfish release up to 300 million eggs into the water during spawning to be met by similarly large numbers of sperm released by the males. This marks the end of their parental investment, leaving newly fertilized offspring to fend for themselves and mostly die. The ocean sunfish reproductive strategy stands in stark contrast to our own, where the offspring first develops inside the mother and parents pour extensive resources into raising a small number of offspring to adulthood.
How did animals come to have such divergent life histories? This question is deeply entwined with inquiries into the evolution of novel modes of post-fertilization development, and at the heart of a recent study in Evolution that explored the genetic bases of different modes of development occurring in a single species of marine worms.
Matt Rockman, a co-author of the study, first began studying these worms – called Streblospio benedicti – in his lab at New York University in 2008. It is one of many species of worms he studies to address various evolutionary questions.Continue reading