Paulyn Cartwright

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Associate Professor
Primary office:
Haworth Hall
Room 7016
University of Kansas
1200 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, KS 66045-7534

Dr. Paulyn Cartwright's research focuses on understanding evolutionary patterns and developmental processes in medusozoans.


Ph.D., Department of Biology, Yale University

B.S., Biology, University of California, Los Angeles

Teaching Interests

  • Evolution
  • Developmental biology


Medusozoans are a clade of cnidarians that include hydrozoans (Hydra, hydromedusae and hydroids), scyphozoans (true jellyfish), cubozoans (box jellies) and staurozoans (stalked jellies). Medusozoans are relatively simple in terms of their component parts, yet they display a remarkable diversity of forms and life cycles. The tremendous diversity of medusozoans has been appreciated for centuries, yet many questions remain unanswered with regard to the evolutionary patterns and processes underlying this diversity. With new advances in phylogenetics, genomics and developmental biology, it is now possible to re-address these outstanding questions using modern approaches. My lab is using genomic approaches to investigate the evolutionary relationships of medusozoans and the developmental mechanisms responsible for the diversity of medusozoan forms.

Research Interests

  • Medusozoan phylogeny
  • Genomics
  • Development and evolution
  • Invertebrate zoology
  • Macroevolution

Selected Publications

Ames, C. L, Ryan, J. F, Bely, A. E, Cartwright, P., & Collins, A. G (2016). A new transcriptome and transcriptome profiling of adult and larval tissue in the box jellyfish Alatina alata: an emerging model for studying venom, vision and sex. BMC Genomics, 17(650). DOI:10.1186/s12864-016-294

Han, J., Hu, S., Cartwright, P., Zhao, F., Ou, Q., Kubota, S., Wang, X., & Wang, Y. (2016). The earliest pelagic jellyfish with rhopalia from Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 449, 166-173.

Chang, E. S, Neuhof, M., Rubinstein, N. D, Diamant, A., Philippe, H., Huchon, D., & Cartwright, P. (2015). Genomic insights into the evolutionary origin of Myxozoa within Cnidaria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(48), 14912-14917. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1511468112

Kayal, E., Bentlage, B., Cartwright, P., Yanagihara, A. A, Lindsay, D. J, Hopcroft, R. R, & Collins, A. G (2015). Phylogenetic analysis of higher-level relationships within Hydroidolina (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa) using mitochondrial genome data and insight into their mitochondrial transcription. PeerJ, 3, e1403. DOI:10.7717/peerj.1403

Sanders, S. M, & Cartwright, P. (2015). Patterns of Wnt signaling in the life cycle of Podocoryna carnea and its implications for medusae evolution in Hydrozoa (Cnidaria). Evolution & development, 17(6), 325-336. DOI:10.1111/ede.12165

Zapata, F., Goetz, F. E, Smith, S. A, Howison, M., Siebert, S., Church, S. H, Sanders, S. M, Ames, C. L, McFadden, C. S, France, S. C, Daly, M., Collins, A. G, Haddock, S. H, Dunn, C. W, & Cartwright, P. (2015). Phylogenomic Analyses Support Traditional Relationships within Cnidaria. PloS one, 10(10), e0139068. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0139068

Sanders, S. M, & Cartwright, P. (2015). Interspecific Differential Expression Analysis of RNA-Seq Data Yields Insight into Life Cycle Variation in Hydractiniid Hydrozoans. Genome biology and evolution, 7(8), 2417-2431. DOI:10.1093/gbe/evv153

Shpirer, E., Chang, E. S, Diamant, A., Rubinstein, N., Cartwright, P., & Huchon, D. (2014). Diversity and evolution of myxozoan minicollagens and nematogalectins. BMC evolutionary biology, 14, 205. DOI:10.1186/s12862-014-0205-0

Hensel, K., Lotan, T., Sanders, S. M, Cartwright, P., & Frank, U. (2014). Lineage-specific evolution of cnidarian Wnt ligands. Evolution & development, 16(5), 259-269. DOI:10.1111/ede.12089

Sanders, S. M, Shcheglovitova, M., & Cartwright, P. (2014). Differential gene expression between functionally specialized polyps of the colonial hydrozoan Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus (Phylum Cnidaria). BMC genomics, 15, 406. DOI:10.1186/1471-2164-15-406

Nawrocki, A. M., Collins, A. G., Hirano, Y. M., Schuchert, P., & Cartwright, P. (2013). Phylogenetic placement of Hydra and relationships within Aplanulata (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa). Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution, 67(1), 60-71.

Bentlage, B., Peterson, A. T., Barve, N., & Cartwright, P. (2013). Plumbing the depths: Extending ecological niche modeling and species distribution modeling in three-dimensional space. Global Ecology and Biogeography. DOI:10.1111/geb.12049

Nawrocki, A. M, & Cartwright, P. (2013). Expression of Wnt pathway genes in polyps and medusa-like structures of Ectopleura larynx (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa). Evolution & development, 15(5), 373-384. DOI:10.1111/ede.12045

Nawrocki, A. M., & Cartwright, P. (2012). A Novel Mode of Colony Formation in a Hydrozoan through Fusion of Sexually Generated Individuals . Current Biology, 22(9), 825-829. DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.026

Cartwright, P., & Nawrocki, A. M. (2010). Character evolution in Hydrozoa (phylum Cnidaria). Integ. Comp. Biol., 50(3), 456-472. DOI:10.1093/icb/icq074

Bentlage, B., Cartwright, P., Yanagihara, A. A., Lewis, C., Richards, G., & Collins, A. G. (2010). Evolution of box jellyfishes (Cnidaria: Cubozoa), a group of highly toxic invertebrates. Proc. R. Soc. B., 277, 493-501.

Nawrocki, A. M., Schuchert, P., & Cartwright, P. (2010). Phylogenetics and evolution of Capitata (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa), and the status of the family Corynidae. Zoological Scripta, 39(3), 290-304.

Evans, N. M., Holder, M. T., Barbeitos, M. S., Okamura, B., & Cartwright, P. (2010). The phylogenetic position of Myxozoa: Exploring conflicting signals in phylogenomic and ribosomal datasets. Mol. Biol. Evol., 27(12), 2733-2746. DOI:10.1093/molbev/msq159

Bentlage, B., Peterson, A. T., & Cartwright, P. (2009). Inferring distributions of chirodropid box-jellyfishes (Cnidaria: Cubozoa) in geographic and ecological space using ecological niche modeling. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 384, 121-133.

Evans, N. M., Lindner, A., Raikova, E. V., Collins, A. G., & Cartwright, P. (2008). Phylogenetic placement of the enigmatic parasite, Polypodium hydriforme, within the phylum Cnidaria. BMC Evol. Biol., 8, 139.

Cartwright, P., Evans, N. M., Dunn, C. W., Marques, A. C., Miglietta, M. P., & Collins, A. G. (2008). Phylogenetics of Hydroidolina (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa). J. Mar. Biol. Assoc., 88(8), 1163-1672.

Collins, A. G., Bentlage, B., Lindsay, D., Haddock, S. H. D., Lindner, A., Norenburg, J. L., Jarms, G., Jankowski, T., & Cartwright, P. (2008). Phylogenetics of Trachylina (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa). J. Mar. Biol. Assoc., 88, 1673-1685.

Cartwright, P., Halgedahl, S. L., Hendricks, J. R., Jarrard, R. D., Marques, A. C., Collins, A. G., & Lieberman, B. L. (2007). Exceptionally Preserved Jellyfishes from the Middle Cambrian. PLoS ONE, 2(10), e1121: p. 1-9.

Cartwright, P., & Collins, A. G. (2007). Fossils and phylogenies: integrating multiple lines of evidence to investigate the origin of early major metazoan lineages. Integ. Comp. Biol., 47(5), 744-751.

Cartwright, P., & Daly, M. (2007). The phylum Cnidaria: A review of phylogenetic patterns and diversity 300 years after Linnaeus. Zootaxa, 1668, 127-182.

Cartwright, P., Schierwater, B., & Buss, L. W. (2006). Expression of a Gsx parahox gene in colony ontogeny in Hydractinia (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa). Journ. Exp. Zool. (Mol Dev Evol), 306B, 460-469.

Collins, A. G., Cartwright, P., McFadden, C. S., & Schierwater, B. (2005). Phylogenetic Context and Basal Metazoan Model Systems. Integ. Comp. Biol., 45, 585-594.

» Show All Publications

Selected Presentations

(09/30/2016). Investigating the role of the Runx gene in cnidarian regeneration. Hydroidfest. Bodega May Marine Laboratory

Selected Grants

Cartwright, P., (Principal), ICOB: Molecular and morphological characterization of polar capsules in the parasitic Myxozoa, NSF IOS 1321659, NSF IOS, $249,943, (01/01/2013 - 12/31/2017) . Federal. Status: Funded.

Cartwright, P., (Principal), Career: Integrating phylogenetics and development to investigate character evolution in hydrozoans, NSF DEB-0953571, NSF DEB, $750,000, (01/01/2010 - 12/31/2017) . Federal. Status: Funded.

Cartwright, P., (Principal), Fautin, Daphne, (Co-Principal), Collins, Allen, (Co-Principal), Assembling the tree of life-An integrative approach to investigating cnidarian phylogeny, NSF AToL, DEB 05-31799, NSF AToL, DEB, $1,610,000, (01/01/2005 - 12/31/2012) . Federal. Status: Funded.

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