Joining us on April 17th for the Integrative Biology seminar was Gene Hunt, a curator at the Smithsonian Institute, whose parents must have known when they named him what occupation he would be getting into. Specifically, he “hunts” changes in the “gene” pool of Ostracoda, a bivalved crustacean that, on average, has a length that is smaller than the thickness of a dime.  The genus Hunt investigates, Poseidonamicus, is found at a water depth below one kilometer in every part of the world except the Arctic and the Mediterranean and has a fossil record worth bragging about. Additionally, the fossils carry several distinct morphological traits that can be compared over evolutionary time. These factors enable Poseidonamicus to provide immeasurable insight on how evolutionary changes occur.

Charles Darwin’s monumental publication, On the Origin of the Species, provoked great criticism because it proposed a linear evolution of change not supported by fossil records at the time. In 1859, there were only 51 dinosaur fossils recorded in scientific literature, leading Darwin to argue that the intrinsic lack of data made it difficult to draw any tangible conclusions about how species change over time. The worldwide fossil collection has taken an exponential increase since the time of Darwin, finally allowing paleontologists to observe and measure morphological changes in a species over time.