The molecular drivers of deep-sea adaptation in brittle stars

Abyssal plains cover about half of the world’s ocean bottoms and yet, their biodiversity remain poorly known. The abyss is often referred to as a biodiversity desert due to its harsh environmental conditions, such as lack of light, extreme pressure, low temperature and scarcity of food. However brittle stars, a very diverse group of marine invertebrates abundant in the deep-sea, colonized this environment several times independently, highlighting their strong adaptive abilities.

In my current project, I am investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying deep-sea adaptation in brittle stars using genomic methods (e.g. de novo genome assembly & annotation, whole-genome resequencing, exon-capture). By investigating different bathymetric transitions and spanning a wide phylogenetic range (from the within-species to the between-family resolution), I intend to obtain a comprehensive overview of the different adaptation mechanisms involved.