Time: Monday June 20, 11:00 - 12:00
Location: Rackham Auditorium
Title: Disruptive innovation in nature: how the invention of the vertebrate nose led to the reengineering of sensory and navigation systems.
Abstract: Innovation also disrupts biological systems. I will describe how the evolution of the nose upended the course of sensory and motor evolution in vertebrates. There are two major olfactory systems in vertebrates, the ancestral main olfactory system and the more recent vomeronasal system. They differ dramatically in distribution: the main system is almost universally present while the vomeronasal system, robust in most mammals, lizards and snakes, is lost in many taxa such as birds and Old World apes, such as ourselves. I propose the vomeronasal evolved to complement the spatial navigation function of the main olfactory system. I will discuss how the vomeronasal system evolved secondarily to map stimuli across time, thus complementing the main olfactory system's role in mapping stimuli across space. This division of labor arose when the evolution of the nose introduced a novel conflict between respiration and olfaction. I then describe how this conflict led to widespread innovations in motor and sensory evolution in vertebrates.
Biography: Professor Jacobs heads the Cognitive Biology Lab in the Department of Psychology and the Helen Wills Institute of Neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. After training in animal behavior (1978 B.S., Cornell), ecology and evolutionary biology (1987 Ph.D., Princeton) and postdoctoral fellowships in neuroscience (Universities of Toronto, Pittsburgh and Utah), she joined the Berkeley faculty in 1993. Her group focuses on the where to eat, how to navigate and map new terrains and how generally to integrate diverse sources of information to make adaptive decisions in uncertain environments. Animal species include humans, search dogs and rodents (domestic and wild). Her theoretical work on navigation focuses on the evolution of limbic structures (hippocampus, olfactory systems) and their integrated role in spatial navigation. She is the recipient of a NSF CAREER award, Hellman Junior Faculty Award, Prytanean Faculty Award, Mary Rennie Epilepsy Award and a 2015 NSF Ideas Lab Collaborative Grant for olfactory navigation. She has published over 50 papers in the fields of animal behavior, animal cognition, behavioral neuroscience and brain and behavioral evolution.