SICB Annual Meeting 2018
January 3-7, 2018
San Francisco, CA

Symposium: Evolution in the dark: unifying understanding of eye loss

Symposium Description: The evolution of eye loss in subterranean, deep sea and nocturnal habitats has fascinated biologists since Darwin wrestled with it in On the Origin of Species. This phenomenon appears consistently throughout the animal kingdom, in groups as diverse as crustaceans, salamanders, gastropods, spiders and the well-known Mexican cave fish, but the nature, extent and evolutionary processes behind eye loss remain elusive. With the advantage of new molecular and developmental tools, eye loss has once again become the subject of intense research focus. The goal of this symposium will be to bring together a cross-disciplinary group of researchers working on the historic question, ‘how does eye loss evolve in the dark?’. The symposium will showcase new progress made in the diverse fields of molecular biology, phylogenetics, development, comparative anatomy, neurobiology, ecology and behaviour in a wide range of study organisms and habitats, and encourage the exchange of ideas between participants and discuss future directions for the field of eye loss.

Sponsors: SICB divisions DEDB, DEE, DIZ, DNB, DPCB, AMS, and TCS;


  • Lauren Sumner-Rooney, Museum für Naturkunde, Germany
  • Megan Porter, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA


1. Megan Porter, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa;
Introduction and molecular hallmarks of eye loss

2. Daniel Stern, George Washington University
Convergent and Divergent Transcriptome Evolution in the Eyes of Blind Cave Crayfish

3. Mark Wilkinson, Natural History Museum, London
Visual system evolution in caecilians

4. Christopher Emerling, University of California Berkeley
Genomic simplification of mammalian eyes adapted to extreme dim-light

5. William Jeffery, University of Maryland
Eye loss in Astyanax cave fish

6. Meredith Protas, Dominican University of California
Mechanisms of eye loss in a cave crustacean, Asellus aquaticus

7. Simon Tierney, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment
Massive parallel regression: genetic mechanisms for eye loss amongst subterranean diving beetles

8. Jorge Pérez-Moreno, Florida International University
Transcriptomic and epigenetic analyses reveal the evolution of vision loss in freshwater caves

9. Ajna Rivera University of the Pacific
Evolution and development of sexually dimorphic eye-loss in California microcrustaceans

10. Lauren Sumner-Rooney, Museum für Naturkunde
Repeated eye reduction events reveal multiple pathways to loss in deep-sea snails

11. Brigitte Schoenemann, University of Cologne and University of Bonn
Evolution of eye reduction and loss in fossil arthropods

Images courtesy of Mark Wilkinson, Brigitte Schoenemann, Chris Emerling, Meredith Protas, Simon Tierney, Bill Jeffery, Lauren Sumner-Rooney, Megan Porter and Gergely Balázs.