Meiofauna genomics: the new frontier in animal evolution

Name of applicant

Katrine Worsaae




University of Copenhagen


DKK 9,995,915



Type of grant

Semper Ardens: Accomplish


Among all life forms, the animal kingdom is the most diverse in form and function, and knowing its evolution is crucial for multiple aspects of biology. Many relationships in the animal tree of life implicate lineages of microscopic animals less than one mm long, known as meiofauna, that we will resolve to understand the diversification of animal body plans and the underlying genetic mechanisms


The project will allow us to answer fundamental biological questions on genome evolution and plasticity and identify genomic signatures of major changes in animal body plans. We seek to explain how and why multiple animal lineages have miniaturized during evolution and detect whether some major meiofaunal lineages present today may have stayed small across vast evolutionary time


Exploiting the vast development in molecular techniques, we will meet the strong need for characterizing the full genomes of “missing link” microscopic lineages. Comparing multiple meiofauna genomes to known genomes of macroscopic animals, we will reconstruct the Animal Tree of Life to gain a more complete understanding of animal evolution and the resulting geno- and phenotypic diversity

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