Raul Eduardo Diaz, Jr. PhD recently visited us at the Molecular Imaging Center to explore Micro-CT capabilities that we have to offer. His research revolves around skeletal evolution of squamates (lizards, snakes, amphisbaenians) and has recently begun to use the Veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) as an incredibly useful species to bridge the gap between avian (bird) and mouse (mammalian) research on body plan evolution. Here you can see Chameleon skeletal structure which was scanned using our Siemens Inveon Micro-CT equipment. Chameleons & Vipers were scanned at 52 micron spatial resolution; image rendering on scans were done at the center by image specialist Bino Varghese, PhD.
Dr. Diaz is fascinated by not only the morphological diversity (skeletal and ectodermal structures) found across vertebrates, but is interested in the genetics and ecological factors driving speciation and adaptive phenotypes (in particular, those which occur repeatedly through convergence). The genetic signaling pathways involved in driving morphological diversity are highly conserved across vertebrates and may also provide a not-yet-appreciated tool for studying the development of congenital malformations in humans.
His study system involves reptiles and amphibians in the field but also maintains a reptile breeding group in house (and soon some amphibians) for looking at the developmental genetics and cellular biology driving morphological change during development. His lab’s interest spans across various taxonomic groups (though mainly chameleons and large pythons) and integrates ecology and natural history of species from in the field with taxonomy/systematics, developmental and comparative morphology, embryology, genetics/omics, as well as immunohistochemistry, histology, microscopy and gene expression studies. To read more about Dr. Diaz click here