"Desiccation Tolerance in Animals, Microbes, and Plants: Comparative Mechanisms and Evolution" to be held at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting, January 4-8, 2005, San Diego, California.

For most organisms, drying to equilibrium with even moderately humid air is fatal. Accordingly, mechanisms to acquire and conserve water are one of the most conspicuous features of life on land. However, at least three phyla of animals and all but one of the major plant taxa also contain species that tolerate desiccation. Recent comparisons of desiccation-tolerant plants suggest that tolerance has evolved many times, converged on similar biochemical mechanisms, and entrained parallel trade offs between tolerance and both complexity and productivity. This symposium will extend this comparison to include animals and microbes, providing the first synthesis of knowledge of desiccation tolerance across all the major kingdoms of life in over 15 years. The symposium will integrate studies of the biophysics, biochemistry, genetics, anatomy, physiology, and ecology of tolerance to help understand the comparative mechanisms of tolerance and the evolutionary basis for the apparent trade off between tolerance and growth.

Technical advances in molecular biology have stimulated a recent flush of integrative, basic research on desiccation tolerance in plants. One important practical application could be in genetic engineering of tolerance in crops. Likewise, research is being done on the use of knowledge gained from the study of desiccation-tolerant animals to stabilize and make stress-resistant mammalian cells in culture - even human blood platelets. These results could find ready application in the current emphasis on using "lessons from nature" to induce stability and stress resistance in a wide variety of biological systems. The time has come to integrate these two bodies of research and to compare their lessons for agriculture and health. The symposium will take place on two of the days of the 2005 meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in San Diego, California, on January 4-8 and is planned for publication as a special issue of the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology.


Peter Alpert, Associate Professor, Biology Dept., University of Massachusetts, 611 N. Pleasant St., Amherst, MA 01003-9297; 413 545 4357; fax: 545 3243;

Organizing Committee

James Clegg, Professor, Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California at Davis, 2099 Westside Road, Bodega Bay, CA, 94923;

Brent Mishler, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720;

Melvin Oliver, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, 3810 4th Street, Lubbock, TX 79415;

Draft program:

The symposium will consist of 14 speakers and span two days, ending each day at 3 pm. The symposium will be held during the 2005 SICB meeting, on January 4-8; the program committee has not yet assigned the exact days. The schedule of speakers, together with their institutional affiliations, areas of expertise, and titles, is as follows.

Day One

Malcolm Potts, Virginia Technical University, USA; biochemistry of microbes
"The desiccome: humble beginnings"

Folkert Hoekstra, Wageningen Agricultural University, The Netherlands; pollen and spores
"Differential storage behavior in dried pollen and spores"

John Crowe, University of California at Davis, USA; biophysics of animals
"Real-world applications of lessons learned from the world of anhydrobiosis"

Ilse Kranner, Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, UK; biochemistry of lichens
"The lichen symbiosis - antioxidants confer desiccation tolerance"

Ingemar Jönsson, University of Lund, Sweden; life history of tardigrades
"A life history perspective on desiccation tolerance"

Dorothea Bartels, University of Bonn, Germany; genetics of angiosperms
"The evolution of desiccation tolerance in higher plants: genomic aspects"

Alan Tunnacliffe, Cambridge University, UK; rotifers and LEA proteins
"Molecular anhydrobiology"

Day Two

Mel Oliver, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, USA; genetics of bryophytes
"Desiccation tolerance in bryophytes: evidence for whether tolerance is the primitive condition in plants"

Amy Treonis, Creighton University, USA; ecology of nematodes
"Worms bite the dust: ecological tradeoffs for nematode survival in arid environments"
(This paper will be co-authored with Diana Wall, Colorado State University, USA)

Brent Mishler, University of California at Berkeley, USA; green plant phylogenetics and evolution
"The evolution and ecology of desiccation tolerance in mosses"

Jill Farrant, University of Cape Town, South Africa; genetics, ultrastructure, and morphology of angiosperms
"Molecular, biochemical and physiological mechanisms of desiccation tolerance in a range of angiosperm resurrection plants"

Takashi Okuda, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Japan; physiology of insects
"Anhydrobiosis in an African chironomid"

Peter Alpert, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA; ecology of plants
"The constraints of tolerance: why are desiccation-tolerant organisms small and rare?"

James Clegg, University of California at Davis, USA; biochemistry of invertebrates
"Anhydrobiosis or dehydrobiosis: how dry is 'dry'?’"

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