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Kristin Tessmar-Raible, 2012 (c)

JOUR FIXE with Kristin Tessmar-Raible

Marin Life in the Light of the Moon



“LUNA ALIT OSTREA ET IMPLET ECHINOS” Lucilius, ca. 150 BC / This quote - "the moon nourishes the mussels and inflates the urchins" - illustrates the fact that classical authors had already seen a connection between the different phases of the moon and the size of certain marine invertebrates. Over the centuries, this view seems to have been transformed by generalization and popular mythology. Whereas there are no scientific data that would support such changes in brain size of land animals, zoological descriptions of the early and mid 20th century have clearly re-established the connection between the apparent size of marine animals with different phases of the moon. As external fertilization is a frequent mode of reproduction in marine animals, the lunar cycle provides a steady rhythm that can be used to synchronize spawning across a population. Indeed, highly synchronized mass spawnings can be observed in marine animals as diverse as cnidarians, polychaetes, echinoderms or fishes, and thus occur in representative groups of all metazoan animals. Lunar reproductive periodicity thus is a fundamental phenomenon in marine ecosystems.
Kristin Tessmar-Raible’s lab has started to dissect the molecular mechanisms that govern light-dependent circadian and circalunar rhythmicity in the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii. During this Jour Fixe Kristin Tessmar-Raible will present a short historical background on the research of animal clocks and rhythms, some challenges we face on our journey to discover their molecular mechanisms and our current views on the molecular models how sunlight and moonlight can drive rhythms in marine life.


Kristin Tessmar-Raible is Junior Group Leader at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories, Vienna. In 2008 she won the START prize of the Austrian Science Fund for her work on “A molecular Approach to Lunar Periodicity”. From 2004 to 2008 she was a post-doc at European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Germany. In 2004 she did her PhD at the Univeristy of Marburg, Germany. In 2007, she also won the NoE Marine Genomics Europe Outstanding Woman in Marine Biological Science Award.


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JOUR FIXE with Kristin Tessmar-Raible
March 09, 2012, 18:00h