Paedomorphosis is a poorly understood phenomenon in evolutionary biology in which juvenile traits of an organism are retained into adulthood. The evolutionary origins of, and driving forces behind, various cases of paedomorphosis in animals remain unknown. Exploring cases of paedomorphosis across the entire animal kingdom is a desired but overwhelming task, but beetles, a mega-diverse insect order with numerous paedomorphic lineages, is the best proxy to study this phenomenon within a manageable project and with high potential for broad extrapolations. With this project, I propose to (1) document the morphological changes in paedomorphic lineages across beetles to (2) test hypotheses of morphological homology for paedomorphic characters in a phylogenetic framework using genomics and to (3) identify evolutionary causes behind the repeated development of paedomorphosis. I expect the results to be scalable and thus instrumental in generating an inclusive theory of the repeated origin of paedomorphosis across the entire animal kingdom. Through my past research I developed a unique systematic knowledge of the elateroid beetles where paedomorphosis occurs with high frequency. The implementation of this project will raise me from a domain-restricted entomologist to an independent successful evolutionary biologist and thus maximize my chances for a tenure track position in a world-class research institution in Europe. Dr. Alexey Solodovnikov, my host at Copenhagen University, works with current integrative methods in systematic entomology, fundamental to the successful development of my ideas on paedomorphosis.
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