BRAINS AND CLADES: THE IMPLICATIONS OF SYNAPSE GENES IN THE ANIMAL TREE OF LIFE
Adolfo Lara1, Estefania Rodriguez1, Rob DeSalle2.
1The Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, 2Sackler Institute of Comparative Genomics, The Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY.
The origin and evolution of the nervous system has gathered a lot of interest in the last couple of years. The nervous system, responsible for the connection of organisms to the outside world is still surrounded by questions regarding its origin and subsequent evolution. Recent studies, possible due to the current ease of DNA and RNA sequencing technologies, suggest multiple origins of the nervous system in the animal tree of life. If nervous systems indeed originated multiple times in evolutionary history, the next step is to determine the evolutionary history of genes involved in the nervous system. Accordingly, this project will identify the functional importance of genes involved in neuron-neuron communication, or synapses, in the evolution of animal groups. Specifically, this project will test the hypothesis that genes involved in synapses have functional importance in the evolution of present animal clades. Neural genes gathered from genomic data for 47 organisms representing major animal groups were screened to assess clade support. The presence, or lack thereof, and the distribution of the clades based on synapse genes in the animal tree of life will be discussed.