Biologist Frederico Henning is an inquisitive soul who never tires of delving into the grand questions of life. His journey into biological sciences began at the State University of Londrina, where he explored the history and philosophy of science, captivated by the intricacies of evolutionary theory. Driven by his thirst for knowledge, he embarked on a master’s program in Genetics and Evolutionary Biology at the University of São Paulo, followed by a doctorate at the University of Konstanz in Germany.
His scientific curiosity led him to spend several years as a post-doctoral researcher in Germany, followed by another two at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro before taking on his current position as a professor. His research is an exploration of evolutionary convergence, seeking to unravel the mysteries behind the forms organisms adopt. In essence, he ponders whether life, if given a chance to restart, would unfold similarly or embark on an entirely different evolutionary path.
Beyond the confines of genetics and its philosophical implications, this Henning harbors a deep-seated passion for the mandolin and the vibrant world of choro. His journey with the instrument began at an early age, nurtured through years of dedication and practice. Today, his virtuosity contributes to traditional choro circles, concerts, and recordings.
One of humanity’s most profound existential questions is “why are we the way we are?” Put more generally, if life were to begin again, could organisms be completely different from what we see today? Despite the metaphysical nature of these questions, they are not beyond the realm of empirical investigation. Nature has already repeated itself several times in a phenomenon known as evolutionary convergence. A key observation is that evolutionary convergence is more common in closely related organisms. This is seen as evidence that shared developmental and genetic systems can direct evolutionary trajectories. However, little is known about the molecular basis of these systems or how they interact with selective pressures in nature.
This project focuses on two emblematic cases of convergence that are particularly suitable for combining molecular, genetic, and ecological methods. Our study will delve into the repeated evolution of adaptation in cichlid fish and succulent plants.
Using the modern tools of genomics, we will investigate what some of the best examples of convergence have in common.