Please join us for our February meeting of the Connecticut Entomological Society! A dinner social hour will start at Willington Pizza at 6:00pm, the meeting will begin at 7:30 on the UConn Campus. Dr. Cera Fisher will present her work uncovering the evolutionary origins of the treehopper helmet. All are welcome.
Details are as follows:
Dinner: 6pm Willington Pizza, 25 River Road (Route 32), Willington, CT 06279
Meeting: 7:30pm University of Connecticut, Biology and Physics Building room 130
Speaker: Dr. Cera Fisher
Title: On the origin of the spectacular: treehopper helmets and the evolution of novel morphology
A treehopper with a phenomenal helmet. Photo from Rogelio Quinatoa, https://flic.kr/p/nsxJXh
Abstract: As naturalists, we are entranced with the diversity of the natural world--the "endless forms most beautiful" that set Darwin on his life's work. But in light of evolution by natural selection, which can only operate on existing variation, where do all these diverse forms come from? Understanding morphological diversity requires understanding the origin of novelty. In our lab, we have been investigating the origins of novelty using enigmatic little bugs called treehoppers. What differentiates treehoppers from their closest relatives is their helmet: a 3-dimensional outgrowth of their dorsal body wall which has been molded by natural selection to aid in all manner of predator evasion. In our quest to understand how treehopper development has changed to give rise to this fascinating structure, we employ cutting edge sequencing technologies and comparative gene function analyses. Using these methods we have uncovered evidence that a change in gene expression allows the treehopper to re-use wing-patterning genes to build its novel helmet.
Speaker Bio: Cera Fisher is a newly-minted PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, and loves True Bugs. She received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Arizona State University, where she studied the history of embryo research as a member of the Embryo Project. In her transition from historian to scientist, she spent a salt-filled summer as an intern at the Marine Resources Center of the MBL in Woods Hole, MA, and taught two semesters of Core Science at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island before arriving in Connecticut. It was love at first sight the first time she saw a treehopper, and she has spent the last six years getting to know these charismatic bugs and trying to find out how they build that thing that we call the treehopper "helmet".
Dr. Cera Fisher with her bugs. Photo from Dr. Cera Fisher