Developmental Plasticity

transcriptomics, Pelobates cultripes, Scaphiopus couchii, Spea multiplicata

Developmental and Phenotypic Plasticity

An organism’s phenotype is the product of its genes and its environment. This plasticity is considered adaptive when changes in phenotype in response to a specific environmental condition improve the organism’s fitness. Adaptive developmental plasticity is therefore an interesting mechanism for coping with environmental heterogeneity. I am interested in understanding the molecular mechanism that underlie the regulation of plastic phenotypes. We apply genomic techniques including RNAseq and ATACseq to study the generation of environmentally sensitive phenotypes. More broadly, we are interested in taking a comparative view-point to study how plasticity may be implicated in the evolutionary process of generating novel phenotypes.

Developmental Acceleration Amphibian Larvae

Some amphibian larvae are capable of accelerating their development in response to pond drying to avoid desiccation risk, with the Western Spadefoot toad (Pelobates cultripes) being an extreme example. This species can accelerate its development by more than 30%! The Gomez Mestre Group is currently working on uncovering the gene regulatory network underlying this plasticity, by experimentally induce early development through simulated pond drying and screen the transcriptome for differentially expressed genes.

Check out our recent publications in Molecular Ecology and G3.

Evolutionary Changes in Plasticity

The degree of plasticity, that is the degree of environmental sensitivity, is not the same across populations or species. We are interested in studying whether the degree of developmental acceleration changes across an environmental cline in a predictable manner. Moreover, we are interested to test hypotheses regarding the role that plasticity may play in the divergence of species.

More coming soon!

Conflicting Signals

Experimental biology can be extremely informative for isolating single environmental factors and studying their effects on plastic phenotypes. However, natural systems are complex and organisms have to balance the input of multiple signals that may require trade-offs when it comes to optimizing phenotypes. We are interested in better understanding how tadpoles react to two potentially conflicting signals: pond drying and predator presence.

More coming soon!

[transcriptomics Pelobates cultripes Scaphiopus couchii Spea multiplicata]
Ivan Gomez-Mestre, Ewan Harney, Rafa Rico, Paula Sianes
April 1, 2023