In an email to Liz Libby, Shingleton explained: “There is an intimate link between oxygen levels and body size. You may be aware that 300 million years ago insects were much larger, with some dragon flies having wingspans as large as two feet! This large size has been linked to higher levels of oxygen in the atmosphere at that time. Conversely, if you rear modern insects at low oxygen levels they grow to be smaller adults. So oxygen is an important regulator of body size. We are interested in how this regulation is achieved, at a molecular-genetic and physiological level.”
The grant will be used to run an undergraduate research program in the newly established Shingleton lab, over the next three years. Undergraduates will be involved in every aspect of the research, “from rearing flies in different oxygen conditions, to assaying how oxygen levels affect fly physiology and gene-expression,” Shingleton said.
The research is in collaboration with Jon Harrison at Arizona State University, where there will be opportunities for Lake Forest students to work in the Harrison laboratory on different aspects of the research.