MBL Research Fellow Eric Edsinger has been awarded a collaborative grant from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) to explore the evolution of the cardiovascular system in cephalopods (squid, octopus and cuttlefish). In the process, the team will advance the pygmy squid, Idiosepius, as a new model system for genetic and biological research.
The unusual cardiovascular system in cephalopods consists of three hearts. One, the systemic heart, pumps blood to the whole body. Two additional branchial hearts pump blood to the gills. The team hypothesizes that the systemic heart evolved similarly to the vertebrate heart, while the branchial hearts arise from independent evolution. They also hypothesize that cephalopods have evolved a unique “pacemaker” to synchronize the hearts’ beating activities. They plan to identify heart-specific and pacemaker-relevant genes; develop genetic tools to study gene function in the squid circulatory system and other bioelectric systems, like the brain and nervous system; and use advanced imaging to study the functional integration between the hearts.
Edsinger’s collaborators on the grant include Masa-aki Yoshida of Shimane University, Leonid Moroz of University of Florida, and Georges Debregeas of Université Pierre et Marie Curie.
Photo caption: Pygmy squid Credit: Tom Kleindinst