Biodiversity, the headline topic at this year’s EMBL|EMBO Science and Society Conference, is also a major focus of research for a number of scientific groups working at EMBL.

In the first of two podcasts looking at how biodiversity is being studied and mapped by EMBL scientists, we catch up with researchers in Detlev Arendt's group at EMBL Heidelberg.

A main focus of the Arendt group is to study one of the great remaining mysteries in animal evolution: how the central nervous system came into being. To do this, the team investigate and compare simple marine organisms, including small and primitive marine animals with elongated bodies known as cephalochordates.

Elia searches for gold; the two new genera – Asymmetron and Epigonychtis (bottom, left and right) – have a distinctive asymmetric appearance


Elia Benito-Gutierrez, a postdoc in the group, made a very personal contribution to our knowledge of biodiversity when she discovered two new species of cephalochordate while on a research expedition in the Indian Ocean. She begins this podcast by describing her discovery, and reveals why biodiversity is so important to researchers studying evolution.

Concluding the podcast, Detlev explains how studies of diversity within animal species can shed light on stages of evolution, and how, by studying such primitive ancestors, we can learn more about the complex creatures that we are.


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