Coming from Japan all the way to Norway

A new Postdoctoral Research Fellow has arrived in our lab this month. Over the next three years, James will be hard at work understanding the relationships between various different groups of flatworms, roundworms and molluscs. However, for the last two years, James has been up to something completely different!

Tardigrades are a small group of animals closely related to the arthropods – the group that includes insects, arachnids and crustaceans, among others. Recently, they have attracted a great amount of attention for their resilience: tardigrades can enter into a protective “tun” state that allows them to resist extreme temperatures, pressures, high levels radiation and even survive in space!

However, due to their small size, the fossil record of tardigrades is poor. Working as part of the Arakawa G-Lab at Keio University’s Institute for Advanced Biosciences in Yamagata, Japan, James’ project aimed to use the evolutionary history of tardigrade’s incredible desiccation response as a proxy for the evolution of terrestrially within the group – after all, there is a very low likelihood of becoming dehydrated in the sea!

To answer these questions, James sampled from a wide range of tardigrade species, across multiple groups, and calculated when key desiccation tolerance genes first occurred and duplicated within the group. This allowed us to see how many copies of these genes were likely possessed by extinct ancestral tardigrades, and thereby work out when the tardigrades likely first came to land.

With his background in genome and transcriptome informatics, and natural history, James hopes to bring a new angle and perspective to old problems, whilst learning lots about what the lab has to offer.

Ramazzottius varieornatus, one of James’ study species. (Copyright: Hiroki Higashiyama and Kazuharu Arakawa, Keio University)

The featured image shows “Tardy”, the Arakawa G-Lab’s mascot (Copyright: Tarudi)

Text in the teaser: Want to know what tardigrades have to do with our new project? Take a look at the door of December 18th.

Picture in the teaser: Pictures changed to include the copyright, the used licenses can be found here (


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