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Deconstructing the Kraken: using genomic and paleontological approaches to understand how cephalopods adapted to the deep sea.

Project Description

Cephalopods are the most intelligent of invertebrates, possessing a sophisticated nervous system, complex behaviorand learning capabilities. Deep see cephalopods include iconic species like the giant and the colossal squid and very little is known about their life history, evolution and particularly how they adapted and colonised the deep sea. We have recently sequenced the genome of the giant squid and as well as transcriptomic data for for 14 species of cephalopods to understand how they adapted to life in the abyss. We shall use i) comparative genomics to understand cephalopod-specific variation in the context of metazoans, ii) population genomic approaches to explore specific adaptations of these species to various marine ecosystems, and iii) use paleontological data to provide a time scale of the deep sea colonisation by cephalopods. This project will provide insight into the evolution of these cephalopods, a still highly under-represented group in large-scale comparative genomics analyses.

Funding Notes

This is a competition funded project through the NERC GW4+ DTP. There is a competitive selection process. This studentship will cover fees, stipend and research costs for UK students and UK residents for 3.5 years.

We are looking for a candidate with a sincere interest in evolutionary biology, and an eagerness to learn computational methods, including the basics of computer programming in Python and Shell. Knowledge of molecular biology, comparative invertebrate morphology, or palaeontology would be advantageous but is not required.


Tanner et al (2017). Molecular clocks indicate turnover and diversification of modern coleoid cephalopods during the Mesozoic Marine Revolution. Proceedings of the Royal SocietyVolume 284, Issue 1850.

Zhang et al (2012). The oyster genome reveals stress adaptation and complexity of shell formation. Nature490, 49-54.

Paps & Holland (2018). Reconstruction of the ancestral metazoan genome reveals an increase in genomic novelty. Nature Communications9: 1730.

Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life, by Peter Godfrey-Smith. William Collins. ISBN-10: 9780008226299.

How good is research at University of Bristol in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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