PhD (University of Toronto)
Research Areas: molecular evolution, vision biology, computational biology, comparative genomics, molecular and cellular development
Determining how organisms adapt to their environments is a fundamental goal of evolutionary biology. Sensory systems, such as vision, are an ideal model to study this topic as they provide a direct interface between an organism and its environment. The research in my lab is focused on understanding the mechanisms and drivers that have led to the vast diversity of vertebrate visual systems. We use an innovative approach to investigate how and why vertebrate visual diversity has evolved across multiple organizational scales using a combination of comparative genomics and transcriptomics, molecular evolutionary analyses, and targeted experiments.
Vision plays a key role in shaping complex behaviours including resource acquisition, predator avoidance, and mate choice, but different species need to contend with drastically different visual environments. Understanding how visual systems evolve and adapt to these different environmental conditions can provide deep insight into the diverse ecological transitions that have occurred throughout the tree of life and into mechanisms of adaptation, the evolution of complexity, and the repeatability of evolution in response to parallel selective pressures.
Research in the lab in currently focused in three main areas: 1) identification of major patterns in visual evolution and development in vertebrates; 2) determining convergent and novel mechanisms of visual evolution during fossorial (subterranean) adaptation; and 3) investigation of the evolution and development of new photoreceptor cell types. We are studying these topics in several vertebrate groups including amphibians (frogs, salamanders, and caecilians), squamates (lizards and snakes), and turtles.
Schott RK, L Perez, MA Kwiatkowski, V Imhoff and JM Gumm. 2021. Evolutionary analyses of visual opsin genes in anurans reveals diversity and positive selection suggestive of functional adaptation to distinct light environments. bioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.27.457945
Schott RK, RC Bell, ER Loew, KN Thomas, DJ Gower, JW Streicher, MK Fujita. 2021. Genomic and spectral visual adaptation in southern leopard frogs during the ontogenetic transition from aquatic to terrestrial light environments. bioRxiv https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.19.432049
Hauser FE, KL Ilves, RK Schott, Alvi E, H López-Fernández, BSW Chang. 2021. Evolution, inactivation, and loss of short wavelength-sensitive opsin genes during the diversification of Neotropical cichlids. Molecular Ecology 30: 1688-1703.
Gemmel NJ, ... RK Schott, ... Ngatiwai Trust Board [60 authors total]. 2020. The tuatara genome reveals ancient features of amniote evolution. Nature 584: 403–409.
Schott RK, N Bhattacharyya, BSW Chang. 2019. Evolutionary signatures of photoreceptor transmutation in geckos reveal potential adaptation and convergence with snakes. Evolution 73: 1958–1971.
Schott RK, A Van Nynatten, DC Card, TA Castoe, BSW Chang. 2018. Shifts in selective pressures on snake phototransduction genes associated with photoreceptor transmutation and dim-light ancestry. Molecular Biology and Evolution 35: 1376–1389.
Gutierrez EA, RK Schott, MW Preston, LO Loureiro, BK Lim, BSW Chang. 2018. The role of ecological factors in shaping bat cone opsin evolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285: 20172835.
Schott RK, B Panesar, DC Card, M Preston, TA Castoe, BSW Chang. 2017. Targeted capture of complete coding regions across divergent species. Genome Biology and Evolution 9: 398–414.
Schott RK, J Müller, CGY Yang, N Bhattacharyya, N Chan, M Xu, JM Morrow, A-H Ghenu, ER Loew, V Tropepe, BSW Chang. 2016. Evolutionary transformation of rod photoreceptors in the all-cone retina of a diurnal garter snake. PNAS 113: 356–361.