Wasp Venom Research makes the Cover of Current Biology

Nasonia parasitoids wasps, minute insects that inject venom and lay their eggs on fly pupae, are pictured in the Goergen Hall lab of Nathaniel & Helen Wisch Professor of Biology John (Jack) H. Werren May 26, 2017. Were, along with postdoctoral fellow Ellen Martinson uses the rapidly evolving venom repertoires of these parasitoid wasps (including the ectoparasitoid model Nasonia vitripennis, pictured) to investigate the question of how new genes are recruited for venom function. In contrast to expected model of gene duplication, they find that many venom genes evolve by the co-option of single copy non-venom genes. These findings could have broad implications for how new gene functions evolve, as co-option of single copy genes may be a common but relatively understudying mechanism for the evolution of new gene functions, particularly in tissues subject to rapid evolutionary change. // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Ellen Martinson, Mrinalini, Yogeshwar Kelkar, Ching-Ho Chang, and Jack Werren’s recent paper in Current Biology was featured in the Rochester Newscenter. Their research uses wasp venom to propose a new idea about how genes can gain new functional roles. The UR write-up has great photos and a video explaining their study, check it out.

Mole Salamanders – Spring 2017

Finally found mole salamanders after a few years of searching– last Monday (April 3), at midnight, in the forest, in a rainstorm. This is Ambystoma maculatum, the Spotted Salamander. Spotted them in Mendon Ponds Park.

Mole salamanders live most of their lives underground in burrows and eat invertebrates. But once a year, in early spring, during rainstorms, late at night – they aggregate at small ponds to mate. There were also hundreds of Wood frogs and Spring peepers mating in the pool as well… very loud.

  • Vince Martinson
  • Ellen Martinson

Spotted salamanders mating in the pond.


Spotted salamander charging back to the pond.


Lots of Wood frogs mating in the pond… the ripples are all frogs.

Salamander egg mass.


Spotted salamander – this one was about 7 inches long.


Spotted salamander close-up.