Invitation to Dr. Jesús A. Ballesteros' Seminar, March 23, 11am, KN132
You are invited to Dr. Jesús A. Ballesteros' Seminar, March 23, 2023, from 11am - 12pm, KN132.
Jesús A. Ballesteros, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology-Kean University
Out of oceans and into caves: Paleobiological transitions and paradigm shifts in arachnid evolution
Arachnids constitute a diverse and ancient lineage of (mostly) terrestrial organisms. Through their long evolutionary history, these arthropods have transitioned from their ancestral aquatic environment to a fully terrestrial mode of life. As another example of such dynamic ecological transitions, some arachnid species have abandoned life on the surface to live in permanent darkness inside caves. These ecological transitions resulted in the development of adaptive traits, such as air breathing organs and the loss of eyes respectively, prompting a growing array of evolutionary questions: How often these transitions happen? What are the genetic-developmental mechanisms behind those adaptations? What is the role of genome duplication events in the development of adaptive traits? In this talk, I will present the contributions of my research program in solving these mysteries by 1) challenging a century-old paradigm of arachnid terrestrialization, 2) developing bioinformatic tools and establishing phylogenomic surveys for poorly studied invertebrate taxa (e.g. sea-spiders) and (3) combining genomic data, evo-devo and biodiversity discovery in the study of speciation in caves. Finally, I will discuss the consequences for comparative biology and genomics of an emerging paradigm shift in arachnid systematics.
Jesús Ballesteros is currently an Assistant Professor at Kean University in New Jersey. He grew up in the southern state of Tabasco in Mexico and obtained his B.Sc. in Biology at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) in Mexico City. He completed his Masters degree in arachnid systematics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and his PhD. in spider phylogenetics and computational biology at the George Washington University (Washington D.C.). He completed postdoctoral training in arthropod phylogenomics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Ballesteros' research investigates the relationships of chelicerate arthropods (arachnids, sea spiders, and horseshoe crabs), which are among the most recalcitrant problems in animal phylogeny. His research integrates cutting-edge approaches to natural history, such as taxonomy, fieldwork, and collections-based investigations.