We investigated the morphology of both types of eyes, and found a difference in the shells on the chitons' backs. Shell eyes and eyespots are embedded in the upper layer of chiton shells, so the optic nerves have to travel to an edge where they pass through openings (slits) to get down to the rest of the chiton's body and join the big nerve cords. We found that chitons with eyespots have way more openings than chitons with shell eyes, or with no eyes.
Why? Well, you need hundreds of shell eyes but THOUSANDS of eyespots, so we think that more openings work kind of like a cable organizer at the back of your desk, helping keep all those optic nerves straight. Because eyespots work together, chitons can't let them get all tangled up without losing 'sight' of which eye is where!
Had a delightful (but EARLY) morning presenting on some new chiton work as part of the Tangled Bank seminar series in Evolution! It was so fun to share this work -- stay tuned for a preprint very soon! -- and I had the joy of receiving a lot of fantastic questions. That said, I probably WON'T give another seminar at 5am my time. At least I didn't yawn in the middle of my own talk!
Summer sampling travels continued! Todd, Cheyenne, Niko and I just got back from Panama, where we spent 2.5 weeks working at STRI in Bocas. Emily and Bridget took a course in Cnidarians/Ctenophores, so we had a fantastic time as a lab hitting the water and watching ostracods signal. The species resident in the sea grass beds there signals synchronously, so we got to watch waves and waves of spectacular bioluminescence. I can't wait to dive into the transcriptomes from the many ostracods we get to bring home. We also tried a mark-recapture of ostracods; we actually DID recapture some, which surprised all of us! And of course, there were sloths.
Embarrassing as it may be to have pictures of myself as a 4 year old out in the world, the Washington Post recently covered my quest to find and thank a childhood mentor. I'm so grateful to Dawn Fallik, the reporter who helped put me in touch with the amazing Dr. Vernard Lewis. Read the full article here:
And don't forget to thank your mentors! We are all here because of the people who took our dreams seriously. If Vernard hadn't told me what a PhD was, and told me that anyone could go to college, I might not be sitting here with a PhD, ready to take a shot at the academic job market. If I successfully become a professor, I hope to one day receive letters from 4-year olds.