August 1, 2014

Friday Evening Lecture Series – Glassman Lecture – Neil Shubin, University of Chicago, “Finding Your Inner Fish”

Date(s) - 06/27/2014
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Lillie Auditorium

Friday Evening Lecture Series“Finding Your Inner Fish”
Neil Shubin, University of Chicago
June 27, 2014, 8:00 PM, Lillie Auditorium

Introduction by Dr. Joan Ruderman, President and Director, MBL

Neil_Shubin_0761-350Lecture Abstract:
Our limbs have been built over two different timescales: over the million-year timeframe of evolution and over the course of our own development from egg to adult.  Understanding both of these issues means collecting and merging different kinds of data in understanding our limbs. We can target the rocks of the world to identify likely places to recover fossils that tell us of major transformations. By looking for Devonian age rocks, formed in ancient streams, we were able to discover and extract fossils from some of the fish most closely related to limbed animals.  These fossils, along with others known from around the world, tell us that fish evolved equivalents of arms, legs, and even wrists while still having largely fin-like structures.  Using this information we probed the genome of living fish to find to what extent the genetic apparatus that patterns their fins are similar to limbs.  The answer is similar to that we see in the fossil record: many of the genetic pathways that pattern fingers and toes in mice and people are present in fish patterning their fins.

Dr. Neil Shubin is the Robert Bensley Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and Associate Dean for Academic Strategy in the University’s Biological Sciences Division. The focus of Dr. Shubin’s research is the evolution of new organs, especially limbs. He’s conducted fieldwork in Greenland, China, Canada, and much of North America and Africa and has discovered some of the earliest mammals, crocodiles, dinosaurs, frogs and salamanders in the fossil record. One of his most significant discoveries, the 375-million-year-old Tiktaalik roseae fossil, is considered an important transitional form between fish and land animals.  Trained at Columbia, Harvard, and the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Shubin is Senior Advisor to the President at the University of Chicago and was appointed Senior Advisor to the President and to the Vice President and Research and for National Laboratories to provide faculty leadership for the recent MBL/UChicago affiliation. Dr. Shubin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the author of two popular science books, The Universe Within (2013) and the best-selling Your Inner Fish (2008), which was chosen by the National Academy of Sciences as the best book of the year in 2009. In 2014 he hosted the three-part PBS series, Your Inner Fish, which explores the science of how the human body became the complicated, quirky, amazing machine it is today.

About the Glassman Lecture:

The Glassman Lecture is held in honor of the late Harold N. Glassman who left a generous bequest to the MBL which resulted in the establishment of the Harold N. Glassman fund, the income from which is used to support an annual Friday Evening Lecture on an important topic in biological research.