Scientific sessions, PRBB CRG Conferences
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University. New Haven, USA
Gunter Wagner, from Yale University in New Haven, US, aims at understanding the evolution of complex characters. This problem has many dimensions, including the question of how complex characters can evolve by random mutation and selection, the biological nature of character identity (homology) and the genetic mechanisms for the origin of novel characters. Most of the effort in his lab focuses on the evolution of the gene regulatory network underlying the origin of a novel cell type, the endometrial stromal cells of placental mammals. This research led him towards an investigation of the role of transcription factor protein evolution, in particular the origin of novel protein-protein interactions. The second focus is the developmental basis of avian digit identity. All these empirical research problems bring with them a host of conceptual and theoretical problems that he also likes to address, such as the nature of character individuation, the structure of the homology concept and the role of measurement theory in formulating evolutionary models. He has been invited by James Sharpe (CRG).