STRUCTURE, FUNCTION, AND EVOLUTION OF COMPLEX TRAITS
Complex traits function as parts of whole systems, rather than individual components, and the evolution of a particular trait may shape the evolution of other complex traits in these systems. To better understand the function, evolution, and relationships among complex traits, we study the functional morphology, physiology, neurobiology, and behaviors associated with complex traits in marine invertebrates.
Exploring the nervous systems of animals can have implications that reach far beyond our understanding of a single species. The nervous systems of marine invertebrates are widely diverse in structure and function, and we can apply what we learn from these animals broadly. We take an integrative and comparative approach to neurobiology by exploring how the nervous systems of marine invertebrates are organized, how they function in cellular and physiological contexts, and how they generate behaviors.
Animals interact with their environments using their sensory systems. These interactions begin with input to a sensory system and rely on the structure and cellular function of these systems. This input must then be processed, often (but not always!) in a central processing center, which leads to a behavioral output. We ask how animals interact with their environments using their visual systems. We focus on the structure and function of visual systems, behaviors associated with vision, and the relationships of visual systems to other complex traits. For example, snapping shrimp have well-developed compound eyes that function faster than those of any other aquatic animal. The eyes of snapping shrimp are arranged beneath an anterior extension of carapace called the orbital hood. Can snapping shrimp see through the orbital hood? Why do snapping shrimp have such fast vision? How does their fast vision help snapping shrimp interact with their environments? We are exploring these among many other questions associated with the sensory ecology of marine invertebrates.