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Leiden biologist receives National Zoology Award

Maurijn van der Zee, evolutionary biologist at the IBL, received the National Zoology Award for his research on the evolutionary success of the insects. The award was handed out last Saturday, the 17th of December, by Professor Jan Kammenga, chairman of the Royal Dutch Zoological society.

Maurijn van der Zee received the “Zoology Award” from Professor Jan Kammenga, chairman of the Royal Dutch Zoological society

Together with PhD student Chris Jacobs, Maurijn van der Zee discovered an innovation in insect eggs, the serosa. The serosa is an extraembryonic membrane that protects the embryo. In the awarded research, the serosa was removed in a flour beetle using genetic modification. Those serosa-less eggs desiccated quickly. Thus, the serosa protects insect eggs against dry circumstances.

The award ceremony took place during the yearly congress of the Royal Dutch Zoological society (KNDV) in Antwerp. The jury particularly praised the interdisciplinary nature of the research. Molecular genetics, developmental biology, ecology and evolutionary biology were combined. “Crustaceans do not have a serosa; it is an evolutionary innovation of the insects. This innovation might have played a crucial role in the step to living on land. There is an interesting parallel with vertebrates” explains Van der Zee “In vertebrates too, an innovation in the egg allowed reptiles to become true land animals”.

The research group of Maurijn van der Zee also discovered that the serosa protects insect eggs against pathogens like fungi and bacteria. This knowledge helps to find ways to circumvent defenses in biological control of pest insects. 

 

Maurijn van der Zee: "This award is a confirmation that my work is much appreciated and an encouragement to go on!"