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June 18, 2010

RIKEN at the 2010 EuroScience Open Forum

Leading scientists to discuss developmental perspectives in vertebrate evolution

The giraffe's neck, the elephant's trunk, the bat's wing and the turtle's shell — what do these evolutionary innovations all have in common?

While striking in their diversity, these body parts did not emerge as entirely new structures but rather as rearrangements of existing elements in a common body plan. Understanding the relationship between such innovations and their origins often requires not only an understanding of the underlying genes, but of gross anatomy as well.

At the EuroScience Open Forum in Torino, Italy on July 3rd, a session titled "Of genes and bodies - developmental perspectives in vertebrate evolution" aims to show how an understanding of anatomy can help us to better appreciate evolutionary innovations. Featuring an international panel of leading scientists, the session unites perspectives on animal development from comparative anatomy with those from molecular genetics.

Anne Burke of Wesleyan University, a prominent evolutionary developmental biologist, begins the session by discussing the development and evolution of the vertebrate musculoskeletal system. Shigeru Kuratani of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology is next with his research on the developmental evolution of the turtle shell, followed by a talk on the molecular mechanisms of craniofacial development by Filippo Rijli of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research. The session will be moderated by science communicator Elisabetta Tola, and will feature an extended table discussion and Q&A period following presentations by the panelists.