Abstract: Homology has historically been an elusive concept in biology. With the advent of modern molecular approaches to understand a phenotype, we find the definition of homology an even more daunting task. We use animal biomineralization, a complex trait, to empirically examine whether phenotypically distinct anatomical structures can be considered homologous at multiple levels of biological organization.
Biomineralization is the process by which living organisms construct hard skeletons creating structures that range from specialized tissues such as shells or skeletons to ecosystems such as coral reefs. Biominerals are composed of both inorganic minerals and proteins. We use a comparative genomics approach to assess if such components of a biomineral are shared across animal lineages. In the process, we have developed BioMine, a biomineralization centric protein database that enables comparative analysis across mineralizing animals.
Bio: Mónica Medina is a comparative biologist whose research primarily focuses on the ecology and evolution of marine invertebrates. In addition to studying the evolution of animals, her laboratory studies cnidarian host-microbe interactions.