I have always been fascinated by the life in the ocean. That is why I started my studies in marine biology at Lund University and got my undergraduate degree during spring 2004. I started my PhD shortly after. I am working with what I think is one of the most fascinating animals that you find in the ocean today, the Cubozoans (also called “Box Jellyfishes”). Cubozoans are members of phylum Cnidaria and are well known all over the world, mostly because of their lethal sting. They are regarded as “simple” animals as they are located at the base of metazoan evolution. They are the first metazoans to possess a distinct multicellular nervous system, which is basic in structure and function when compared to animals higher up in the animal kingdom. What many people do not know about these creatures is that they possess surprisingly complex visual sensory organs, called rhopalia, and a total of 24 eyes! Each medusa has four rhopalia and each rhopalium has six eyes of which two are lens eyes. Lens eyes are a complex type of eye that is found in animal groups higher up in the metazoan evolution, such as vertebrates and cephalopods. Cubozoans have 1) a nervous system that is basic in structure and function and 2) they possess complex visual sensory organs called rhopalia.
With this information one question can be put forward: - Where is the visual information collected by the eyes processed? It has long been thought that processing of visual information takes place in the medusa body, but: - Is there any processing of visual information occurring in the rhopalia?
My PhD project is about finding a nervous system in the rhopalia that is connected to the eyes and can serve as a neuronal basis for visual processing. To detect nerve cells I use different antibodies. When I have detected nerve cells of interest, I create a 3-D image of the rhopalium with its containing nervous system.