Category Archives: Sommer Lab

New Pristionchus polyphenism paper out!

ErikblogLong time friend and fellow Sommer Lab postdoc just had a great paper come out in the most recent issue of Cell. Though I didn’t contribute anything intellectually to the paper, I was able at least to help them out with a couple images for Figure 1. I think the paper is a good demonstration of why one shouldn’t be afraid of working with non-standard model organisms.

Erik (along with Manuela Müller and Christian Rödelsperger, also in the lab) explores the mechanisms by which developmental plasticity Continue reading

Pristionchus on the cover of Evolution & Development

EvoDevoCover001One of the groups in our lab, headed up by postdoc Erik Ragsdale, is investigating the genetics and evolution of a feeding polyphenism in Pristionchus. They just had a nice paper come out in Evolution & Development entitled: “Feeding plasticity in the nematode Pristionchus pacificus is influenced by sex and social context and is linked to developmental speed.” Once it was accepted, they asked me to help design a cover submission. I used some still captures from some of my predatory feeding movies, and the cover was accepted! Score another point for my artistic career! Check out the paper, and expect more cool work from this group on the same polyphenism to be coming out later this year.

An artistic contribution to worm neuroanatomy.

sideview4Bumbargercover1In annotating all of the connectivity for my recent comparative connectomics papers, one of the byproducts was a massive 3D model of the anatomy of all the cells in the nervous system. For me, these models are fascinating to look at and  I enjoy when I get a chance to admire some of the beauty in the data I generate. I spent some time making some 3D rendering of the models using Blender (www.blender.org) in order to submit them as possible covers for the issue in which the paper was published… they weren’t chosen for the cover, but I still want to share them with the world!  Click the images to see them larger on my FLICKR page, and let me know what you think!

Data is online at Open Connectome

brainsectionWhen image stacks are acquired for generating connectivity datasets, there is so much information in the micrographs that does not make it into the first manuscript. As these datasets are extremely difficult to acquire, I think it is important that we try and make the data as openly available as possible. This, however, is not an easy task… it requires you to spend quite a bit of time developing a resource… time that could be spent generating more data or writing papers. As such, I am terribly thankful that the folks at openconnecto.me have developed a resource for making easy for people such as myself to host their image data in a useful way. Right now, one of the Continue reading

Räuberischer Schlund

predatorypressreleaseMuch to my amusement, I found out that the local newspaper, the Schwäbisches Tagblatt, picked up on our press release and published a nice little story. The title “Räubuerischer Schlund” translates to “Predatory Mouth”, referring to  the toothy mouth Pristionchus pacificus uses to puncture its prey. Pretty cool! The image on this post is the same one used in the press release, and shows P. pacificus chomping down on C. elegans. Click HERE for a link to the article. It’s in German, so if you need to you can have a look at it in google translate.

Comparative Connectomics paper is out!

papertitleFinally, after years of blood sweat and tears our comparative connectomics paper has been published. This represents a huge victory for myself and all of the people who have helped me along the way. It is rather humbling to have this work get the kind of exposure it gets by being published in Cell. It is the culmination of years of work, complete with with heart-breaking failures, long grinding hours on the microscope and in front  of the computer, and the occasional adrenaline-inducing discovery. In the paper, we compare a wiring diagram(or connectome) of the pharyngeal nervous system of the nematode Pristionchus pacificus to that of the well-known model organism C. elegans. The data are obtained by Continue reading

Pristionchus pacificus predatory feeding video

One of the things that interests me about the nematode Pristionchus pacificus is that it is capable of taking advantage of many different food sources. Like it’s cousin and well known model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, this nematode can be raised on agar plates seeded with bacteria. Pristionchus can additionally feed on other sources, including other nematodes! These predatory feeding behaviors are quite distinct from bacterial feeding. For instance, Pristionchus has tooth-like denticles in its mouth opening that are highly active during predatory but not bacterial feeding. This increase in the complexity of the P. pacificus
behavioral palette is most interesting when you consider that the nervous systems are composed of a nearly identical set of neurons. So how do you teach an old nervous system to do new tricks? This is one of my primary motivations for comparing networks of synaptic connectivity between these two species.