Nov 012015


November 20th, 2015
University of Connecticut

All monthly meetings are open to the public. If you are interested in insects, please join us!
Members may bring exhibits for show-and-tell. If you have photos, video, or other electronic media to share, please bring on a flash drive.
Those who have not yet paid 2015 dues will be able to do so at the meeting; the form and amount information are posted on our website membership page.

Cera-02-edit-crop     TreehopperNymph-Crop-Edit     DarkHelmet-Spaceballs

Speaker: Cera Fisher

Title: Gene expression, development, and the origin of the treehopper “helmet”

Abstract: Cryptic morphology is common among arthropods, but treehoppers are masters of masquerade.  The 3000-odd species of Membracidae have evolved a hypervariable pronotum or “helmet” that assumes a variety of forms mimicking leaf litter, caterpillar frass, plant thorns, and ants.  Leafhoppers (Cicadellidae) are the closest taxon without a helmet.  They diverged from treehoppers ca. 30 million years ago.  In leafhoppers, the pronotum retains the ancestral condition: short, collarlike, and flush with the mesonotum.  Despite hot debate in recent years, the developmental genetics and origin of the treehopper helmet remain a mystery.  Evidence from gene expression in treehoppers and RNA interference in other insects suggest that co-option of canonical wing-patterning genes may be involved, while evidence from anatomically similar beetle pronotal horns suggest the possibility of leg-patterning gene co-option.  To test these and other hypotheses, we apply an RNAseq approach to analysing gene expression in four tissues of nymphal Entylia carinata (Membracidae) and Homalodisca vitripennis (Cicadellidae).  We use these data to identify patterns of similarity and divergence of gene expression across tissue types, and to test whether the origin of the treehopper helmet was accompanied by a shift towards more leg-like or wing-like development, as predicted by the co-option hypothesis.

Bio: Cera Fisher is a Ph.D. student at UConn and loves True Bugs.  She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Arizona State University, where she studied the history of embryo research as a member of the Embryo Project.  In her transition from historian to scientist, she spent a salt-filled summer as an intern at the Marine Resources Center of the MBL in Woods Hole, MA.  Before arriving in Connecticut, she taught two semesters of Core Science at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.


  • 6:00pm, Willington Pizza House (menu)
  • 25 River Road (Route 32), Willington, CT 06279 (map)


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  • Biology and Physics Building room 130, 91 North Eagleville Road, Storrs, CT 06269 (map)
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