Monday, June 30, 2008
Foreign Dispatches: Reporting from the ASP Meeting in Texas
For my inaugural post, I'm relaying some info from the 83rd meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists, held this year in Arlington, Texas. Taxonomy and systematics have always been a large component of our society, though this year there seemed to be slightly fewer talks in these categories. Following the posts from the Evolution meetings, I have to say that parasitologists are still a little behind the curve. Most systematic studies being done were using the typical genes - 18S, coI - and doing concatenated analysis with parsimony plus one other method - sometimes Bayesian, sometimes ML. But, we have to be cut a little slack, I think. Parasites are notoriously difficult to do molecular biology on - often there's not much material to work with so you have limited ability to troubleshoot primers or methods. And sure, there are some genomes available for the parasites that infect humans, but often there's just the one and there is a lot of divergence in some of these groups. Nonetheless, progress is clearly happening and there are some cool things being done. Pete Olson, from the Natural History Museum in London, presented some really cool work exploring the expression of hox genes in tapeworms, animals that have a very different kind of segmentation. Janine Caira (UConn) and Kirsten Jensen (Kansas) and company once again dazzled us with how poorly the parasite fauna of the world is known, by showing how their field work in Borneo has revealed not only dozens of new species of tapeworms, but sometimes new species of hosts as well. Jessie Light (Florida) made us scratch with her work on the taxonomy and phylogeny of human lice, and Mark Siddall (AMNH) hinted that his recent work on EST's in leeches and their insight into paralogy may eventually explain some of the really bizarre findings of Dunn et al. in their recent animal phylogeny. Stay tuned.
Posted by Susan Perkins at 10:37 AM