The genetic basis of innovation: venom, pregnancy, and the evolution of complex traits

Friday 31 March, 2017
Mathews Theatre D, Mathews Building, UNSW Kensington Campus

Evolutionary innovations such as eyes, eusociality, venom, and live birth (viviparity) are dramatic, adaptive novelties that have shaped the evolutionary trajectories of animals. However, their origins are poorly understood because they are produced by the collective action and evolution of thousands of genes. By applying new molecular technologies to a targeted range of animals, Dr Camilla Whittington’s work aims to elucidate the genetic underpinnings of evolutionary innovations and to discover fundamental evolutionary mechanisms. She will discuss her research into mammalian venom evolution, using the platypus as a model, as well as her studies of the transition from oviparity (egg laying) to viviparity in reptiles and the pot-bellied seahorse. Camilla’s work suggests that there are common evolutionary mechanisms that underpin the development of novel traits across divergent species.



Dr Camilla Whittington completed her PhD at the University of Sydney and postdoctoral positions at the University of Zurich and the University of Sydney. She also spent time as a Fulbright Fellow at Washington University working on platypus venom. Camilla is now focusing on the evolution of pregnancy, funded by a University of Sydney Research Fellowship and L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship.