It is unclear where in the nervous system evolutionary changes tend to occur. To localize the source of neural evolution that has generated divergent behaviours, a new approach has been developed to label and functionally manipulate homologous neurons across Drosophila species.
David Stern's team examined homologous descending neurons that drive courtship song in two species that sing divergent song types and localized relevant evolutionary changes in circuit function downstream of the intrinsic physiology of these descending neurons. This evolutionary change causes different species to produce divergent motor patterns in similar social contexts. Artificial stimulation of these descending neurons drives multiple song types, suggesting that multifunctional properties of song circuits may facilitate rapid evolution of song types.
Senior Group Leader, Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
David studied biology at Cornell University before completing his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He became a research fellow at Cambridge University before taking up a Professorship at Princeton. He was also an Adjunct Professor at the National Institute of Genetics in Japan and at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. His lab aims to identify the genetic and neural basis for the evolution of behaviour.