David Stern

HHMI, Janelia Research Campus

Neural Evolution of Context-Dependent Fly Song

12:00 pm, Tuesday 04 February 2020

Location: Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School

Abstract: It is unclear where in the nervous system evolutionary changes tend to occur. To localize the source of neural evolution that has generated divergent behaviours, we developed a new approach to label and functionally manipulate homologous neurons across Drosophila species. We examined homologous descending neurons that drive courtship song in two species that sing divergent song types and localized relevant evolutionary changes in circuit function downstream of the intrinsic physiology of these descending neurons. This evolutionary change causes different species to produce divergent motor patterns in similar social contexts. Artificial stimulation of these descending neurons drives multiple song types, suggesting that multifunctional properties of song circuits may facilitate rapid evolution of song types.

Biography: David Stern is a senior group leader at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He studied biology at Cornell University before completing his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He became a research fellow at Cambridge University before taking up a Professorship at Princeton. He was also an Adjunct Professor at the National Institute of Genetics in Japan and at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. His lab aims to identify the genetic and neural basis for the evolution of behaviour.