Wednesday 22nd May 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)
Polyembryony and unexpected gender roles in hermaphroditic colonial invertebrates
Helen Jenkins - PhD student, Aquatic Invertebrates, Dept. of Life Sciences, NHM
Polyembryony – the production of multiple genetically identical embryos from a single fertilised egg – is a seemingly paradoxical combination of contrasting reproductive modes that has evolved numerous times and persists in a diverse range of taxa including rust fungi, algae, plants and animals. Polyembryony is thought to characterise an entire order of bryozoans, the Cyclostomata. A molecular genetic approach was used to confirm this widely cited inference, based on early microscopy, and to test the apparently paradoxical nature of this reproductive mode in relation to cyclostomes, and will be reported here. Additional research, also presented here, has revealed further insights into the mating systems of this relatively understudied group of hermaphroditic colonial invertebrates. Mating trials indicated a greater degree of female investment in the presence of allosperm in Tubulipora plumosa and produced evidence of separate-sex colonies in Filicrisia geniculata. If not a complete transition to gonochorism, the situation in F. geniculata indicates at least very pronounced gender specialisation. Further investigations into mating systems of this group may reveal more examples, with implications for our understanding of hermaphroditism and its related traits.
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