Symmetry and asymmetry in biology - April 3rd and 4th 2014

The Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle hosts 3 and 4 April 2014 a symposium on symmetry and asymmetry in biology. This meeting is open to students and researchers registration.

Repetitive scheme in living organisms have been fascinating biologists, from the repetitive shapes constituting the spine of Vertebrates to flower symmetry. Multiple examples of symmetry and breaks in symmetry from molecules to organisms and even populations are raising the question of the underlying mechanisms of this regularity – and of these exceptions.
The aim of this conference is to create a link among various fields – phylogeny, developmental biology, population genetics – which sometimes focuses in those questions at different levels.

This conference follows a class from the Museum graduate school « Diversity of living organisms ». Phd students attending the class are thus kindly invited to join this conference.

The conference registration is free; however registration is mandatory and must be completed before February 28th 2014. The coffee breaks are offered but not lunch and accommodation.

Online registrations are open. Direct registration is also possible via emails to the organizers.

Talks :
Participants are welcomed to give a talk about their current research (fifteen minutes talk followed by five minutes of questions). All invited and research talks will be in English. 

Affiche Colloque Symétrie et asymétrie en biologie, par estelle-merceron


The conference will be held in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris (5th quarter). The museum is located Paris city center, easily accessible from all railway stations. The conference room is the Amphithéâtre Rouelle located in the ground floor of the building called La Baleine.
Museum map

Closest subway stations : Jussieu (lines 7 and 10), Gare d’Austerlitz (lines 5, 10, and RER C).





Here is the general schedule of the conference which will be updated after the registration deadline with the titles of the research talks.

Thursday, 3rd April 2014

9:00-10:30 : Invited talk: Olivier Pourquié (Institute of genetics and molecular and cellular development, Strasbourg, France)
Developmental origin(s) of early asymmetry in Bilateria
10:30-11:00 : Coffee break
11:00-12:30 : Invited talk: Frédérique Peronnet (University of Paris 6, Paris, France) Cyclin G, fluctuating asymmetry and developmental stability in Drosophila
12:30-14:00: Lunch break
14:00-15:30 : Research talks (for each speaker: 15 minutes talks + 5 minutes for questions)
15:30-16:00 : Coffee break
16:00-18:00 : Research talks (for each speaker: 15 minutes talks + 5 minutes for questions)

Friday 4th April 2014

9:00-10:30: Pr. Menno Schilthuizen (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherland) Evolution of shell coiling antisymmetry in snails
10:30-11:00: Coffee break
11:00-12:30:Pr. Richard A. Palmer (University of Alberta, Canada) Symmetry, asymmetry and genetic assimilation
12:30-14:00: Lunch break
14:00-15:30 : Research talks (for each speaker: 15 minutes talks + 5 minutes for questions)
15:30-16:00 : Coffee break
16:00-18:00 : Research talks (for each speaker: 15 minutes talks + 5 minutes for questions)

Invited speakers

Olivier Pourquié
Olivier Pourquié is an INSERM senior researcher at the Institut for Genetics and molecular and cellular biology in Strasbourg (France). He is interested in the mechanisms controlling the formation of the body of vertebrates during embryogenesis. In particular, he has been focusing on the process of axis elongation and on segmentation whereby a periodic series of anatomical structures such as vertebrae are formed during organogenesis. His goal is to understand the basic principles underlying these morphogenetic processes. His work relies on developmental biology studies in chicken, mouse and zebrafish embryos combining genetic approaches with genomic strategies such as transcriptomics or high throughput sequencing and bioinformatics as well as sophisticated in vivo imaging.
He is also interested in applying his results to medicine, by exploring the molecular basis of spine patterning defects such as scoliosis in humans or by using regenerative medicine for cellular therapies of degenerative diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
During his talk, this specialist of muscles and vertebrae development will bring us a new light on the underlying developmental mechanisms involved in the right-left symmetry in Vertebrates.
See his page.


Frédérique Peronnet
Frédérique Peronnet is director of research at the CNRS and head of the team « Epigenetic control of developmental homeostasis and phenotypic plasticity » of the UMR 7622 Biologie du développement.
She obtained her PhD in Paris in 1988 and her HDR in 1996. Her research mainly focus on the epigenetic regulation of development in Drosophila, particularly on the Polycomb and Trithorax complexes that maintain the structure of chromatin. Her recent research program aims at disentangling the complex molecular bases of developmental stability and fluctuating asymmetry, using the powerful molecular tools available in Drosophila melanogaster.
See her page.


Menno Schilthuizen
At Naturalis Biodiversity Center, I hold a position as research scientist. Furthermore, I hold a professorship at Leiden University, and a research associateship at the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation at Universiti Malaysia Sabah. At the latter institute, I worked as an associate professor from 2000 until 2006. In addition to my scientific work, I have been active as a popular science writer since 1994.
My personal drive is the endless diversity of life, which began when I was still a little boy, collecting bugs and botanising in our backyard. This childhood fascination morphed into a professional dedication to understanding the many facets involved in the evolution of species and the way communities of closely related species interact ecologically. The organisms I work with are mainly beetles and land snails, but I am not wedded to these taxa, and occasionally I choose additional kinds of organisms to suit certain research questions. Through my popular writing I try to pre-digest complex evolutionary and ecological concepts for a general audience, and to share my personal fascinations with more than just my direct colleagues.
See his page.


A. Richard Palmer
AR Palmer is a professor of Biological Sciences at the university of Alberta. He obtained his PhD at the university of Washington, Seattle. His main area of research is morphological evolution with a special interest on morphological asymmetries. His seminal papers on fluctuating asymmetry constitue the methodological reference worldwide in studies of developmental stability. His work has yielded valuable insights into the causes and adaptive significance of several striking examples of developmental plasticity and his studies of the development, genetics and evolutionary history of right-left asymmetry variation have yielded some of the strongest evidence to date for a phenotype-leads mode of evolution (sometimes called genetic assimilation) -- a result that caught the attention of the Pharyngula blog.  His lab continues to explore the interplay between developmental plasticity and evolution on both ecological time scales (via descriptive and experimental studies) and evolutionary time scales (via comparative studies).
See his page.


Accommodation is not included in the registration; people thus need to find their accommodation by themselves.

Here is a list of possibilities close to the museum :


The organizers can be contacted for any further information:
Violaine Llaurens :
Phone : + 33 (0)1 71 21 46 96

Vincent Debat :
Phone : +33 (0)1 40 79 30 54

Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle
Laboratoire IsyEB – UMR 7205
Bâtiment d’entomologie – CP50
45, rue Buffon
75005 PARIS