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Biology Seminar: Lisa Mangiamele, "How new communication signals evolve: Androgens as modifiers of neuromotor structure and function"

Dr. Lisa Mangiamele, Smith College, is an integrative neurobiologist interested in animal communication. Her research uses behavioral, physiological, molecular and neuroanatomical techniques to investigate the mechanisms of communication behavior in frogs and fish. In particular, her lab studies how sensory systems integrate communication signals to guide adaptive behaviors, such as mating behaviors, and how those sensory processes are modified by hormones. She is also interested in comparative neurobiology and evolution of the brain.

Seminar Details:

"How new communication signals evolve: Androgens as modifiers of neuromotor structure and function."

Abstract: A hallmark of sexual selection is the evolution of elaborate male signals. Yet, how the physiology of an animal changes to support a new or modified signal is a question that has remained largely unanswered. In the frog Staurois parvus the recent evolution of "foot flagging" – a gestural signal involving extension and backward rotation of a hind leg – is associated with increased sensitivity to androgenic hormones in the main muscles controlling limb movement, similar to that found in the larynx of vocalizing frogs. Antagonism of both central and peripheral androgen receptors (ARs), or peripheral ARs alone, inhibits foot flagging in males. We hypothesized that muscular AR activation could enable and support foot signaling behavior in S. parvus through changes in the morphology and function of the spinal motoneurons that control hind limb movement. We measured motoneuron soma diameter in the lumbar spinal cord of three frog species and found that S. parvus has motoneurons that are much larger than would be expected for a frog of its body size. Taken together, these data suggest that selection may drive increased expression of ARs to enable changes in muscles and neural circuits to generate novel motor patterns and sexual display elements.

Student Lunch: Students are also invited to join Lisa Mangiamele at noon on Friday before the afternoon seminar. Spots are limited, so early RSVPs are encouraged. RSVP here to join the student lunch.

Friday, March 6, 2020 at 4:10pm to 5:00pm

Biology, Biology 19
3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, Oregon 97202-8199

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Faculty, Students, Alumni, Parents & Family, Open to the Public, Staff, Prospective Students


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