B.Sc. University of Victoria (1994)
Christopher B. Cameron
Associate professor, Département de sciences biologiques
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"One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don't talk to the animals, they won't talk back to you, then you won't understand, and when you don't understand you will fear, and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself."
Cree speaker (attributed to Chief Dan George)
Research in the Cameron lab aims to understand the origin and evolution of animal body plan diversity. The oceans are home to the bulk of global animal diversity, and nowhere are body plans more divergent than among the invertebrate animals. This biodiversity is largely a result of the interplay between evolution, development and the fluid environment. For this reason, our research program uses a multidisciplinary approach including comparative morphology and development, phylogenetics, genomics, fluid mechanics and paleontology. We are broadly interested in the origins and evolution of animal biodiversity, and the deuterostomes, that evolutionary linage that includes hemichordates, echinoderms and our own phylum, the chordates, is where we make our greatest contributions.
The Origins of Extracellular Matrix Structures (EMS) in Deuterostomes
Presently we are evaluating three hypotheses on the origin of EMS in deuterostomes (Fig. 1). First, we are testing our hypothesis that chordate gills are a deuterostome plesiomorphic (ancestral) trait (Cameron et al. 2000), by characterizing acorn worm gill form, function and symmetry. Second, we are testing our hypothesis that the echinoderm skeleton is an ambulacrarian plesiomorphy (Cameron & Bishop 2012), by characterizing the calcium carbonate and protein composition of acorn worm ossicles, ossicle development and diversity. Third, based on our finding of Cambrian tubicolous acorn worms from the Burgess Shale (Caron, Conway Morris & Cameron 2013; Nanglu et al. 2016), we are testing the hypothesis that tubes are a hemichordate plesiomorphy. We are characterizing the composition of pterobranch tubes, the secretion of tubes by a living rhabdopleurid graptolite, and experimenting with the induced phenotypic plasticity of the colony structure (i.e., tubarium astogeny).
Fig. 1. Hypotheses on the origin & evolution of deuterostome gills, ambulacrarian ossicles, and hemichordate tubes (modified from Gee 2013, Nature).
Fluid Biomechanics & Animal Body Plan Evolution
We are characterizing the interaction of animal body plans with the fluid environment using numerical, computational and experimental methods. Unlike most selective forces, the physical forces of fluid mechanics can be precisely quantified. In some cases, changing this pressure results in drastically divergent phenotypes. Two of the projects currently underway include i) understanding the fluid interactions with salmon, shark and whale lice, and ii) understanding the interaction of oil droplets with the feeding appendages of zooplankton to mitigate its uptake in aquatic and marine food webs. Another project aims to tightly couple the selective force of fluid mechanics with developmental repatterning to shed light on animal body plans evolution. This work is in collaboration with the fluid dynamic research group (École Polytechnique).
Discovering Hemichordate Biodiversity
The third major research axis of our group is to discover and describe new species of Hemichordata. We are revising the taxonomy of the phylum and we have more than tripled the number of described species along the coasts of North America. Observations on their biogeography suggest that the hemichordates are an ancient and declining group, and that species loss in coastal waters has accelerated due to human activities. Many species are yet to be discovered from the largest habitat on earth, the deep sea. For the most up-to-date information on Hemichordates species see our Hemichordata Images, Checklist of Hemichordate Species, and Taxonomic Key to the Enteropneusta.
Our research has been widely covered in the press and links to
some of the most recent articles are on the Publications
page. If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies or a
post-doc in the Cameron lab, or just looking for more detailed
information, please write.
Biologie 1953: Origine et diversité du vivant
Biologie 2431: Zoologie des invertébrés
Biologie 3293: Évolution et développement
Biologie 2432/ 6432: Stage invertébrés marins (Darling Marine Centre, Maine, mai, 2021)
Biologie 6965 Biodiversité: importance, menaces, solutions
Université de Montréal Home Page
Départment de Sciences Biologiques Home Page
All text and images accessible via the above links
copyright © 2000 - 2019 by C. B. Cameron. All rights reserved.
(revised August 2019)