School of Life Sciences
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Angus Davison

Associate Professor and Reader in Evolutionary Genetics, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences

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Biography

BSc Imperial College, London (1989); PhD University of Edinburgh (1994); Postgraduate certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE), University of Nottingham (2008).

Research Assistant, University of Leeds (1995); Postdoctoral Research Assistant, University of Nottingham (1996-2000); Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Research Fellow, Tohoku University Japan (2001-03); Royal Society of London Research Fellow, Universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham (2003-05); Lecturer, University of Nottingham (2004-2012); Reader in Evolutionary Genetics (2013-present).

Natural Environment Research Council peer review college and panel member, 2006-2009. Associate Editor, Molecular Ecology, 2006-present. Deputy School Safety Officer 2006-2010. Biology Careers Officer 2010-present.

Teaching Summary

Conservation Genetics (C43541)

Population Genetics (C43540)

Evolutionary Biology of Animals (C12477)

Investigating and Writing About Biology (C12370)

Molecular Evolution (C13698)

Research Summary

In my lab, we use snails as a comparative model to understand evolutionary and developmental genetics. In one project, we are using snails to understand the left-right symmetry breaking event that… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

In my lab, we use snails as a comparative model to understand evolutionary and developmental genetics. In one project, we are using snails to understand the left-right symmetry breaking event that takes place during early development, using both lab and field-based studies: just how is chirality determined at the molecular level? In another project, we are investigating the evolutionary origins of supergenes, using the charismatic snail Cepaea. Finally, as snails are one of the most speciose groups, we are using new technologies to understand how this biodiversity has come about, by investigating a model adaptive radiation of snails in subtropical Japan (Ogasawara). All of these projects are technology led: new DNA sequencing techniques are enabling us to do what was not possible only a few years ago. There are also a number of other projects - research on conservation genetics (of mustelids, wolves, hyenas) has been particularly fruitful because it links in to the Conservation Genetics course that I teach.

A wide range of techniques are used, including the latest next generation DNA sequencing methods (Illumina, RAD sequencing), field work, mathematical models, phylogenetics and bioinformatics. Research in the lab is largely funded by BBSRC research grant, with further contributions from The Royal Society, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, Daiwa Anglo Japanese foundation and the Genetics Society.

Downloads of my publications are available from my website, www.angusdavison.org. PhD studentships are advertised on http://www.findaphd.com/

Unwinding snail chirality

We are all asymmetric - not just left or right handed in how we write, but fundamentally, inside our bodies. So are frogs, fish and snails - being left/right asymmetric appears to be the rule in animals. However, it is not at all clear how the left/right axis is consistently set up, such that while animals are always asymmetric, they are asymmetric in the same direction (e.g. heart on the left), except in very rare circumstances. In comparison, while the majority of snails are invariable like ourselves, inherited variation in shell coiling and body asymmetry, or chirality, occurs in 1-10% of all species. While components of the pathway that establishes left-right asymmetry have been identified in diverse animals, from vertebrates to flies, it is striking that the genes involved in the first symmetry-breaking step have long remained wholly unknown in these most obviously chiral animals. In a recent breakthrough, with myself leading an international collaboration involving researchers from Universities in Scotland, Germany and the USA, we have shown that variation in a cytoskeletal protein (the cell scaffold) is perfectly associated with symmetry-breaking in the pond snail, creating either right (dextral) or left (sinistral) coiling snails. Furthermore, contrary to expectations, we discovered asymmetric gene expression in very early (2 cell) snail embryos, preceding morphological asymmetry, and that the same gene has a similar function in vertebrates. Taken together these results overturn the thinking that diverse species initiate left-right patterning differently, and are instead consistent with the view that animals, from invertebrate snails to vertebrate frogs, may derive their asymmetries from the same intracellular chiral elements.

School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH

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