Graduate Fellow

Physical and ecological parameters driving the evolution of bioluminescence

PI(s): Kate Thomas (Duke University)
Start Date: 15-Aug-2014
End Date: 31-Dec-2014

Bioluminescence has evolved at least 40 times among extant organisms, and is not confined to monophyletic groups but is scattered among diverse taxa, from bacteria to vertebrates. The patchy occurrence of bioluminescence and its multiple origins among even closely related lineages has not been explained. What are the evolutionary drivers of bioluminescent body patterning? My project will address this question using both physical and phylogenetic approaches. I will use the wealth of physical data on bioluminescence in the literature to demonstrate the unique physical characteristics of bioluminescent body patterning and consider how these characteristics might shape the evolution of bioluminescent systems of signaling and camouflage. Concurrently, I will use well-established phylogenies of animals with bioluminescent and non-bioluminescent representatives to look for trends and ecological predictors of bioluminescent evolution in animals.