Cracking the code for moulting crustaceans

Dr David Wilcockson

Dr David Wilcockson

16 June 2014

IBERS Marine Biologist Dr David Wilcockson has secured a £320k BBSRC Responsive Mode Grant to fund a three year research project which aims to unravel the hormonal control of moulting in insects and crustaceans.

A new BBSRC funded project, led by , will aim to show how insects and crustaceans (arthropods), that evolved from a common ancestor more than 500 million years ago, have retained striking similarities in the complex hormonal systems that control moulting.

Moulting is used by insects and crustaceans to allow growth, where their entire exoskeleton is periodically shed. The team have already led the way in this research, revealing similarities in the hormones controlling moulting that were previously thought to be very different.

Dr Wilcockson said, “Crustaceans and insects are two of the most important animal groups on the planet, in terms of their abundance, ecological, economic and health impacts” In describing the importance of moulting he continued “It is an absolute requirement for growth in arthropods and, therefore, one of the most important phenomena in the natural world. Understanding what controls moulting could have important implications for aquaculture for example, where the management of crustacean growth represents a major hurdle. This funding is very exciting because we can now make serious advances in our understanding of this critical life event in arthropods.”

Dr David Wilcockson, a marine biologist at IBERS, has been granted funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to investigate the hormonal control of moulting in crustaceans. In collaboration with Professor Simon Webster at Bangor University and Dr Dr Martin Swain (IBERS) the team has been awarded more than £700k for a three-year study that will employ two post-doctoral research staff. The work is set to begin in autumn 2014. The success of this bid in a ferociously competitive field reflects IBERS' developing international reputation for aquatic biology and strengthens existing alliances with Bangor University (Professor Simon Webster).

That the project will employ research staff provides additional benefits to the University and the community.

The work will draw on IBERS genomics facilities and high-throughput gene expression capabilities recently installed in IBERS and funded by the BBSRC.