AsiaEvo welcomes scientists to present their research in any of the following 15 symposia — in addition to a general “open” category. In the case of the 15 symposia, the selection and lineup of presenters is at the discretion of the symposium organizers, but typically includes 2-3 invited speakers and 4-5 contributing speakers in a two-hour time-slot.
- An evolutionary perspective on pollinator biodiversity, systematics, and conservation.
John S. Ascher, Natapot Warrit, Michael C. Orr
There is heightened global interest in pollinator conservation, especially for insects, but studies on them remain relatively limited in Asia. Further, even at the global scale, very few such studies integrate both evolutionary and ecological dynamics, despite their joint importance and mutual influence on one another. Consequently, these knowledge gaps prevent effective conservation of pollinators and the critical ecosystem services that they provide. In this symposium, we will share case studies across Asia and the globe that delve deeper into the complexities of pollinator evolutionary ecology and the resources needed for such studies. Our talks span the range of both invertebrate and vertebrate pollinators, with foci ranging from the need for and potential of biodiversity data to the large-scale analysis of phylogenomic datasets. Only by bringing these disparate data types together can we build a truly comprehensive view of the conservation landscapes and imperatives in Asia and worldwide.
- Behavioral evolution in vertebrates: diversity, genomics and mechanisms.
Qi Xiao-Guang, Zhang Guo-Jie
Behavior is a fundamental aspect of living animals, encompassing feeding, mating and social systems amongst other things. Studying animal behavior in an ecological and evolutionary context provides insights into interactions with environments and indicates how behavior changes over time. Behavioral mechanisms regulate individual fitness and are therefore key drivers of evolutionary change. The study of behavioral evolution examines the forces that generate and shape behavior, including genetic and environmental factors. As a complex trait, behavioral evolution typically involves changes in multiple systems, from anatomy to sensory or digestive systems. Understanding behavioral evolution can lead to solutions for conservation issues such as protecting endangered species, environmental assessment and designing nature reserves. Additionally, studying animal behavior can provide insights into the causes and evolution of individual, social and reproductive human actions. Compared with model organisms, non-model animals have greater differences in behavior and adapt to a wider range of environments, giving them unique advantages in studying behavioral and adaptive evolution. Studying the genetic basis of behavioral evolution in non-model animals is due to their unique value in this field. With the development of sequencing technology and modern omics tools, we can better understand the animal behavior and its genetic basis of behavioral evolution in animals, which will promote our understanding of biodiversity and ecosystem function. Therefore, the discussion topic we propose for this symposium is “Behavioral evolution (vertebrates): Diversity, Genomics and Mechanisms”.
- Early evolution of vertebrates from evo-devo and paleontological perspectives.
Per E. Ahlberg, Zhikun Gai, Tatsuya Hirasawa, Jing Lu, and You-an Zhu.
Over the course of the past twelve years, significant advances have transformed our understanding of the major morphological transitions that occurred during the early evolution of vertebrates. These breakthroughs include key discoveries and insights from cellular and molecular developmental biology, as well as fossil discoveries such as the oldest teeth, maxillate placoderms, early osteichthyans, and Devonian tetrapods. These findings have provided fundamental new insights into the origin and diversification of jawed vertebrates and the fish-tetrapod transition. In honor of the retirement of Professor Shigeru Kuratani, whose groundbreaking research reconstructed the mechanistic developmental basis behind evolutionary novelties in vertebrates such as jaws and the turtle carapace, this symposium aims to review recent progress in understanding the evolutionary morphology of early vertebrates. The event will also discuss unresolved issues and map a future for integrative research in this field, with speakers from the forefront of both evo-devo and paleontology. Part 2 of the symposium will focus on the early evolution of jawed vertebrates, with an emphasis on key events such as the origin and early diversification of gnathostomes, and the emergence of tetrapods.
- Evolvability: a common currency of evolution, ecology and development.
Masahito Tsuboi and Øystein Opedal
The concept of evolvability—the capacity of a population to generate and maintain adaptive variation—has become increasingly prominent in evolutionary biology. Recent advancements in the measurement, conceptualization and application of evolvability have provided novel opportunities for studying one of the most enduring questions in biology: whether and how evolutionary processes operating at the population may scale up to the patterns and processes of phenotypic and lineage diversity across the tree of life. However, applications of the evolvability framework are currently limited within evolutionary biology, and much conceptual and empirical work is still necessary to integrate this powerful framework to other two major branches of evolutionary research: ecology and developmental biology. In this symposium, we will bring together researchers of evolvability from backgrounds of evolution, ecology, and developmental biology. We aim to thrust the field forward by showcasing state-of-the-art approaches that utilizes evolvability as a common currency to exchange data, methods, and concepts between eco-evo-devo research to stimulate the use of this powerful framework for wider fields of evolutionary biology.
- Fitness landscapes bridge evolution and molecular biology.
Hsin-Hung David Chou and Fyodor Kondrashov
In light of an interdisciplinary endeavor to reveal the molecular mechanisms of evolution, we propose a symposium titled “Fitness landscapes bridge evolution and molecular biology” with the goal of fostering the bonding between evolutionary biology, genomics, and bioengineering. Living systems are built and supported by molecular machinery crafted and perfected by evolution. For decades, research in biology has been pursued by two schools with seemingly different scopes and limited crosstalk. Microevolutionary biologists surveyed natural variation to illuminate population structure, selection modes, and functionally important residues in genes and regulatory elements. On the other hand, molecular biologists perform gene knockout and biochemical characterization to unravel molecular function, cellular network architecture, and the interaction between genetic components. However, in recent years the rift between evolution and molecular biology is closing through exploration of the molecular fitness landscape (i.e., comprehensive sequence-function relationship of DNA, RNA, and proteins). Coined by Sewall Wright in the 1930s, the fitness landscape metaphor provides a powerful framework to conceive how the genotypes and phenotypes of organisms evolve in response to mutation, drift, and selection. Fitness landscapes are multi-dimension graphs composed of nodes representing all possible sequence variants, edges delineating potential mutation steps, and node height showing fitness values (i.e., molecular function or cellular fecundity). Fitness landscapes provide a practical basis for elucidating the biophysical principles of molecular function, revealing the cause and prevalence of epistasis, explaining the functional significance of standing genetic variation, engineering enzymes with higher reactivity and specificity, and predicting the evolution of antibiotic resistance, infectious disease, and endangered species. Despite the significance and utility of fitness landscapes, earlier research is theoretical, mainly due to the limited experimental capacity to generate and characterize mutants. Fortunately, recent technological advances in DNA sequencing, oligo library synthesis, and massively parallel functional assays have enabled the realization of empirical fitness landscapes through robustly scoring the fitness of many thousands of molecular variants in single experiments. With fruitful results accumulated from fitness landscape expedition over a decade, we feel now is the right moment to gather experts to share the latest findings and brainstorm future directions. Specifically, this symposium will revolve around three themes: 1. Fitness landscapes reveal the biophysical principles of molecular machinery. 2. Influence of fitness landscape topology on evolutionary dynamics. 3. Applications of fitness landscapes in drug discovery and protein engineering. The symposium shall engage researchers in population genetics, molecular evolution, genomics, computational biology, and synthetic biology. Moreover, we anticipate the interaction to catalyze international and cross-disciplinary collaboration that yields novel insights into evolutionary mechanisms, molecular biophysics, and the adaptation of living systems in response to climate change.
- Genetics of adaptation and evolution of novel traits.
The symposium will cover a range of topics in ecological and evolutionary genetics/genomics, with an emphasis on the genetic basis of adaptation and evolution of novel traits in model and non-model organisms. This will include discussions of how novel adaptive traits originated and evolved, how natural selection shaped the pattern of genetic diversity in natural populations, identification of genes or genomic regions that underlying novel and adaptive traits, and understanding factors that constrains adaptive evolution.
- Genomic diversity in nonequilibrium populations.
Kavita Jain and Parul Johri
Contrary to what is assumed in most empirical and theoretical studies of evolution, natural populations are not in equilibrium. The nonequilibrium nature of the population may be because the equilibration time is too long and the population being observed has not reached its stationary state, or as a result of changing environment due to fluctuations in population size, varying selective environment or both. The nonequilibrium populations can, in general, leave different signals as compared to equilibrium ones and/or mimic the signatures of equilibrium populations but in different parameter regimes. An understanding of genetic diversity in such populations is essential to assess the evolutionary forces shaping the trajectories of a population and inferring population-genetic parameters. In this symposium, we invite a discussion of genetic variation in nonequilibrium populations, using computational tools, theoretical modeling, experimental methods, and empirical applications to population genomic data.
- Impact of introgessive hybridization on tropical diversification.
With genomic scale data revealing patterns of introgression in a growing number of organisms, across most kingdoms, we need to develop a clear understanding of the process – when does it occur, what parts of the genome does it involve, and what impact does it eventually have on diversification, particularly in species rich tropical groups. Progress on this topic will occur through both empirical and theoretical work and needs to incorporate network effects, where gene flow is occurring among a large number of species in a complicated geographic and temporal pattern. This understanding of the process will also contribute substantially to our ability to conserve diversity and to enable these groups to adapt to the rapidly changing environments of the Anthropocene.
- Marine evo-devo: new frontiers from emerging marine model organisms.
Bo Dong and Shi Wang
Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) is a rapidly emerging discipline that compares the developmental processes of different organisms to understand how such processes evolved. This discipline aims to address fundamental questions that are unresolvable either by traditional evolutionary biology or developmental biology alone. Extensive studies that used well-established model organisms (e.g. Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, Danio rerio and Mus musculus) have obtained novelties over the past decades. However, the limited selection of traditional model organisms indicates a large bias in the role of development in evolution. In filling this great knowledge gap, the use of emerging new model organisms with key phylogeny positions and full-spectrum coverage shows great application potential by revolutionizing the evo-devo field to depict the whole history of developmental evolution across the tree of life. Genomics, transcriptomics, and single-cell technologies have sped up the development of many traditional non-model organisms into new model organisms (e.g. ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi, placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens, ascidian Ciona robusta, Amphioxus and mollusc Patinopecten yessoensis), which has generated many breakthrough findings or new theories. In this symposium, we will be interested in topics covering: development of cutting-edge technologies for evo-devo research particularly in non-model organisms, investigation the micro- and macro-evolution of genomes and developmental mechanisms, as well as evolution of developmental novelties, adaptive plasticity and complex life history.
- Novel insights regarding genome architecture evolution in the arthropoda.
Carol Eunmi Lee and Sean Chun-Chang Chen
The phylum Arthropoda is the largest and most diverse group of animals on the planet, representing about 80% of all known animal species, encompassing insects, spiders, crustaceans, and numerous other taxa. With the current deluge of genomic data, we now have unprecedented power to make novel inferences regarding patterns and mechanisms of genome evolution. With these new genomic resources, we can better resolve evolutionary relationships among taxa, identify functional elements of the genome, gain insights into the mechanisms underlying genetic variation and adaptation, and understand patterns of genomic architecture evolution. The evolution of arthropods is a captivating and intriguing subject, with numerous unanswered questions and ongoing debates among scientists. The earliest arthropods appeared in the fossil record ca. 540 million years ago, during the Cambrian Period. These ancient arthropods were simple, small, and had segmented bodies and jointed limbs, and resided in the oceans. However, over time, arthropods diversified and evolved a wide range of body plans and adaptations for different lifestyles and environments. For instance, arthropod taxa from different subphyla have colonized freshwater and terrestrial habitats multiple times independently, representing major evolutionary transitions. In addition, insects evolved wings and the ability to fly and spiders evolved venomous fangs and the ability to spin silk, making them effective predators. How are such morphological and functional innovations reflected in patterns of genome evolution? In addition to uncovering fundamental insights into biological revolutions, understanding patterns and mechanisms of genome evolution of arthropods have critically important applications for medicine, agriculture, and conservation. For instance, Drosophila is an essential medical model, yet we have poor understanding of evolutionary history of insects within the Pancrustacea. Many insects are agricultural pests and invasive species, whereas others, such as the honeybee, are critically endangered in many locations. Yet, we have only begun obtaining genomes for many important species. Thus, this symposium welcomes research exploring the patterns, processes, and/or mechanisms of genome architecture evolution of this exceptional group of animals. Talks of a more general conceptual nature on genome evolution and those on the genome architecture evolution of other invertebrates are also welcome.
- Paleo- and macro- ecology in tropical Asia.
Moriaki Yasuhara, Yasuhiro Kubota, and Chhaya Chaudhary
Biodiversity is dynamic not only in space but also with time. To fully understand large-scale biodiversity patterns and their mechanisms behind, it is essential to investigate not only contemporary macroecological patterns but also paleobiological patterns in fossil records. Tropical Asia is famous for their outstanding biodiversity both in marine and terrestrial habitats, and thus is an ideal region to study macro and paleoecology. However, regional biodiversity patterns such as latitudinal diversity gradient in the western Pacific region is not well understood. Here in this symposium, we showcase recent progress in regional–global scale paleoecology and macroecology in various time scales from the Anthropocene to hundreds of million years ago, with special emphasis on the tropical Asia, to discuss future direction of paleo-macro-ecological research in this region. Multidisciplinary approaches are particularly welcomed.
- The evolution of invertebrate sensory ecology and behaviours.
Aswathy Nair and Emilie Dion
Invertebrates have evolved a variety of sensory systems allowing them to thrive in diverse ecological niches. The evolution of sensory systems has been affected by a range of selective pressures, including predation, mating, habitat selection, to name a few, which has in turn shaped the evolution of behaviour under various environmental contexts. This symposium will explore the evolution of sensory ecology in invertebrates, with a focus on the behaviours, their mechanisms and the ecological context that have shaped these systems. All the sensory modalities and species will be considered. We also welcome research that explores the impact of anthropogenic environmental disruption on the evolution of sensory systems, and the potential for these changes to alter ecological interactions and thus, drive speciation.
- The genomics of adaptation and speciation.
Wenji Luo and Aidan W. Short
Speciation and adaptation are fundamental processes that drive the diversity of life on Earth. The generation of an unprecedented amount of genomic data from a variety of systems at various stages of divergence has enabled us to gain insight into how the processes of adaptation and speciation occur over time. For example, genomic analysis has provided insight into how selection against gene flow varies across the genome and has revealed that gene flow and introgression are valuable sources of adaptive genetic variation. However, many outstanding questions remain in the fields of adaptation and speciation genomics such as: (1) what are the roles of demographic history and introgression in divergent adaptation and speciation, (2) how and when does divergent ecological adaptation contribute to reproductive isolation, and (3) how will changing climate conditions impact adaptation and speciation. In order to answer these questions and others in the fields of adaptation and speciation genomics, thoughtful sequencing experiments and integrative computational analysis will be necessary. In this symposium, we will highlight recent work from researchers who have used genomic data and computational methods to provide insight into how the processes of adaptation and speciation unfold over time. We will focus on work that has tried to understand the history of divergence and gene flow between populations, identified divergent ecological adaptation and the genetic basis of adaptation, and that have used evolutionary and mathematical modeling to provide insight into how populations may respond to climate change.
- Virus evolution: from basic research to public health applications.
Hurng-Yi Wang, Jian Lu, Wenfeng Qian.
The symposium will center around recent research on virus evolution and its implications for infectious disease control. Virus evolution is a dynamic and intricate process that is shaped by various factors, including host immunity, replication mechanisms, and environmental factors. Studying virus evolution can provide valuable insights into the origins and transmission of viral diseases, as well as the way in which viruses evolve, adapt, and transmit among various hosts. Recent years has seen significant advances in our understanding of virus evolution, such as the identification of new viral pathogens, the development of new diagnostic tools, and the discovery of novel antiviral therapies. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical need for understanding virus evolution and its implications for public health. Studies have shown that viruses possess the ability to rapidly evolve and adapt to new host animals, leading to the emergence of new variants that could potentially exhibit different transmission efficiencies and levels of immune evasion. The symposium will convene prominent experts in the field of virus evolution to discuss the most recent findings and future directions in this rapidly evolving field. Our discussion will encompass a broad range of topics, including: • The role of host factors in shaping virus evolution • Viral diversity and its impact on disease emergence • The evolution of antiviral resistance and its implications for treatment • The evolution of zoonotic viruses and the risk of spillover events • The impact of environmental factors on virus evolution • The use of genomic and computational tools to study virus evolution Virus evolution is an important area of research that addresses the challenges of emerging infectious diseases and their continuous spread among the human population. Recent advancements in sequencing technology have offered an unprecedented opportunity to study the molecular mechanisms underlying virus evolution. The symposium will not only provide a remarkable platform for researchers to discuss the latest breakthroughs in virus evolution and their implications for infectious disease control and prevention but also how these findings could potentially prompt us to rethink the fundamental principles of evolution for cellular organisms.
- Why sex? insights from asexual genomes.
Shan Gao and Hüsna Öztoprak.
Why sex is the main route to reproduction for the vast majority of metazoans despite its many costs is still enigmatic after decades of research. Considerable empirical research focused on the long-term benefits of sex, but very little universal consequences of its absence could be identified. To understand ‘why sex’ we need more knowledge on the role of sexual and asexual reproduction in i) natural populations, ii) the process of transition to asexuality and the iii) immediate short-term consequences, as well as iv) consequences of diverse cytological mechanisms of asexuality. With the advancement of new technology, the time seems now suitable to discuss novel findings in the field and to identify important future research directions that help to solve the enigma of sex.