The lead author of the recent Evolution paper has posted a commentary on kudos that includes some ideas not included in the paper:
The life cycle and ecology of volvocine algae may be key to understanding the long-term persistence of self-fertilization. First, selfing in homothallic volvocine algae is facultative; in a genetically diverse population, most matings will be between genetically distinct strains. Second, volvocine algae have a haploid-dominant life cycle with a metabolically active, multicellular haploid stage and a dormant, unicellular diploid stage. Inbreeding depression may thus be less important than in species with diploid-dominant life cycles. Finally, the dormant diploid stage allows volvocine algae to overwinter, meaning that the ability to self-fertilize is crucial for the survival of colonists to new ponds. Thus facultative selfing might provide volvocine algae with the benefits of outcrossing (when other genotypes are around) without the cost of potentially being unable to find a mate.
Graduate student Jacob Boswell got the word yesterday that his Society of Systematic Biologists Graduate Student Research Award will be funded. The award will support his sequencing of cDNA from various volvocine species for multi-gene phylogenetic reconstructions.
My symposium paper from the 2014 Philosophy of Science Association meeting is out in Philosophy of Science (Herron, M. D. 2016. Fitness and individuality in complex life cycles. Philos. Sci. 83:828–834). The symposium, “Complex Life Cycles, Reproduction and Evolution,” also includes papers by James Griesemer, Peter Godfrey-Smith, and Maureen O’Malley.
Katrin Schmidt has finished her Ph.D. and crossed the Atlantic to join Team Chlamy at Georgia Tech. Technically, she’s a Research Scientist until her paperwork clears, but she has defended her dissertation on thermal adaptation mechanisms in the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana at the University of East Anglia.
My new article “Fitness and individuality in complex life cycles” is available as “Just accepted” at Philosophy of Science. I presented an early version of this paper in a symposium organized by Maureen O’Malley, Peter Godfrey-Smith, and James Griesemer at the Philosophy of Science Association Meeting in Chicago two years ago.
I gave a keynote address on “Development and evolution of Volvox and related algae” at the Phycomorph Second Working Group Meeting in Limassol, Cyprus on September 30th. Phycomorph is a European research group concerned with macroalgal reproduction and development. I had a great time and learned a ton about development in brown, red, and ulvophyte green algae.
The Herron Lab at Georgia Tech studies various aspects of the evolutionary origins of multicellularity through a combination of experimental, theoretical, and comparative approaches. Our main model systems are the volvocine algae (Volvox and kin) and their close unicellular relative, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.