Evolution of Spiders and Silk Spinning: Origins of Evolutionary Innovation

One of the great challenges for evolutionary biology is to understand the genetic basis of complex phenotypes, and how they were affected by genetic changes that occurred in the distant past. In this project, my team and I pursue this question by using the spiders and their silk-spinning apparatus as models. There is a remarkable diversity in spinneret morphology, and yet very little is known about spinneret evolution. In fact, it is surprising that the very character that defines spiders has received so little attention from evolutionary biologists. By using an integrative approach to study morphological and genetic variation, we expect to understand the evolution of spiders’ silk-spinning apparatus.

Maternal Care in Antiteuchus sp - Bruno Garcia Alvares 2

Evolution of genital complexity: an evo-devo approach using pentatomids as models

Animal genitalia are probably the most complex and complicated phenotypes we know: they evolve extremely fast and exhibit multiple functions apart from the obvious role of sperm transfer. Such complexity is still poorly understood, especially at the molecular level and in non-model organisms. In this project we aim to uncover the identity and quantity of genes and regulatory pathways that act in the development of complex genitalia and how these mechanisms may differ between males and females. We pursue these questions by combining morphological ontogenetic studies and modern techniques of RNA sequencing and RNA interference.


Molecular physiology and evolution of a new developmental stability pathway

Developmental stability is the ability of an organism to buffer given traits against environmental and intrinsic perturbations. This may involve physiological, temporal or behavioral adjustments to the developmental program. The processes leading to developmental stability have been particularly well studied in arthropods. However, how exactly this coordination between growth and developmental timing is achieved is not completely understood. Hence, to investigate how this new developmental stability pathway evolved, we use a combination of molecular genetics, bioinformatics, functional genomics and biochemical assays, and evo-devo approaches.


Functional comparative genomics in Calliphoridae

Since most phenotypic changes between closely related species can be attributed to regulatory variation, cross-species comparison of gene expression is a powerful tool to understand the transcriptome evolution. The Calliphoridae family is particularly interesting for such a study as it is characterized by a range of feeding habits of its species. Another interesting aspect of this family is the appearance of obligate parasitism in at least three independent events in its evolutionary history.

393px-Screwworm_larva_close_upBy John Kucharski

Evolution of genes involved in feeding preference

Also using flies of the Calliphoridae family as model species, we are interested in understanding the evolution of sequence and expression of genes involved in the feeding preference. This involves the population genetics of these genes in several species with contrasting feeding habit.


Investigation of the molecular basis of pesticide resistance

Diseases affecting livestock can have a significant impact on animal productivity, on trade of live animals, meat and other animal products, which, consequently, affects the overall process of the economic development of South American countries. The impact of parasiticide resistance in animal production and the lack of information regarding the molecular mechanisms of resistance motivate this proposal which aims at the comparison of resistant and susceptible strains of two cattle pests, Rhipicephalus microplus, and Cochliomyia hominivorax.


Diversification, biogeography, and conservation of the neotropical biota: an integrative approach (NAP Biocomp)

Together with experts from diverse academic backgrounds, we are bridging several disciplines in a transdisciplinary framework in to study organisms with various life-history strategies that represent excellent models for integrative studies on Neotropical diversification. This project is coordinated by Prof Dr Antonio Mauro Saraiva at the USP Engineering School, Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo.