Dr. Paulyn Cartwright

Paulyn Cartwright
  • Baumgartner Professor of Biology
  • Research Interests: Invertebrate Zoology, Comparative Genomics, Evolution and Development, Phylogenetic

Contact Info

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Office: Haworth Hall 7003


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


Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1990
Department of Biology, Yale University, 1997, New Haven, CT


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


Teaching interests:

  • evolution
  • developmental biology

Selected Publications

Ames, Cheryl L, Joe F Ryan, Alexa E Bely, Paulyn Cartwright, and Allen G Collins. 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.” Journal Articles. BMC Genomics 17 (650). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-016-294.
Han, J., S. Hu, P. Cartwright, F. Zhao, Q. Ou, S. Kubota, X. Wang, and Y. Wang. 2016. “The Earliest Pelagic Jellyfish with Rhopalia from Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte.” Journal Articles. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 449: 166–73.
Chang, E S, M Neuhof, N D Rubinstein, A Diamant, H Philippe, D Huchon, and P Cartwright. 2015. “Genomic Insights into the Evolutionary Origin of Myxozoa within Cnidaria.” Journal Articles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112 (48): 14912–17. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1511468112.
Sanders, S M, and P Cartwright. 2015. “Patterns of Wnt Signaling in the Life Cycle of Podocoryna Carnea and Its Implications for Medusae Evolution in Hydrozoa (Cnidaria).” Journal Articles. Evolution & Development 17 (6): 325–36. https://doi.org/10.1111/ede.12165.
Kayal, E, B Bentlage, P Cartwright, A A Yanagihara, D J Lindsay, R R Hopcroft, and A G Collins. 2015. “Phylogenetic Analysis of Higher-Level Relationships within Hydroidolina (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa) Using Mitochondrial Genome Data and Insight into Their Mitochondrial Transcription.” Journal Articles. PeerJ 3 (October): e1403. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1403.
Zapata, F, F E Goetz, S A Smith, M Howison, S Siebert, S H Church, S M Sanders, et al. 2015. “Phylogenomic Analyses Support Traditional Relationships within Cnidaria.” Journal Articles. PloS One 10 (10): e0139068. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0139068.
Sanders, S M, and P Cartwright. 2015. “Interspecific Differential Expression Analysis of RNA-Seq Data Yields Insight into Life Cycle Variation in Hydractiniid Hydrozoans.” Journal Articles. Genome Biology and Evolution 7 (8): 2417–31. https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evv153.
Shpirer, E, E S Chang, A Diamant, N Rubinstein, P Cartwright, and D Huchon. 2014. “Diversity and Evolution of Myxozoan Minicollagens and Nematogalectins.” Journal Articles. BMC Evolutionary Biology 14 (August): 205. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-014-0205-0.
Hensel, K, T Lotan, S M Sanders, P Cartwright, and U Frank. 2014. “Lineage-Specific Evolution of Cnidarian Wnt Ligands.” Journal Articles. Evolution & Development 16 (5): 259–69. https://doi.org/10.1111/ede.12089.
Sanders, S M, M Shcheglovitova, and P Cartwright. 2014. “Differential Gene Expression between Functionally Specialized Polyps of the Colonial Hydrozoan Hydractinia Symbiolongicarpus (Phylum Cnidaria).” Journal Articles. BMC Genomics 15: 406. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2164-15-406.
Nawrocki, A M, and P Cartwright. 2013. “Expression of Wnt Pathway Genes in Polyps and Medusa-like Structures of Ectopleura Larynx (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa).” Journal Articles. Evolution & Development 15 (5): 373–84. https://doi.org/10.1111/ede.12045.
Nawrocki, A. M., A. G. Collins, Y. M. Hirano, P. Schuchert, and P. Cartwright. 2013. “Phylogenetic Placement of Hydra and Relationships within Aplanulata (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa).” Journal Articles. Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution 67 (1): 60–71.
Bentlage, B., A. T. Peterson, N. Barve, and P. Cartwright. 2013. “Plumbing the Depths: Extending Ecological Niche Modeling and Species Distribution Modeling in Three-Dimensional Space.” Journal Articles. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.12049.
Nawrocki, A. M., and P. Cartwright. 2012. “A Novel Mode of Colony Formation in a Hydrozoan through Fusion of Sexually Generated Individuals.” Journal Articles. Current Biology 22 (9): 825–29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.026.
Cartwright, P., and A. M. Nawrocki. 2010. “Character Evolution in Hydrozoa (Phylum Cnidaria).” Journal Articles. Integ. Comp. Biol. 50 (3): 456–72. https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icq074.
Bentlage, B., P. Cartwright, A. A. Yanagihara, C. Lewis, G. Richards, and A. G. Collins. 2010. “Evolution of Box Jellyfishes (Cnidaria: Cubozoa), a Group of Highly Toxic Invertebrates.” Journal Articles. Proc. R. Soc. B. 277: 493–501.
Nawrocki, A. M., P. Schuchert, and P. Cartwright. 2010. “Phylogenetics and Evolution of Capitata (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa), and the Status of the Family Corynidae.” Journal Articles. Zoological Scripta 39 (3): 290–304.
Evans, N. M., M. T. Holder, M. S. Barbeitos, B. Okamura, and P. Cartwright. 2010. “The Phylogenetic Position of Myxozoa: Exploring Conflicting Signals in Phylogenomic and Ribosomal Datasets.” Journal Articles. Mol. Biol. Evol. 27 (12): 2733–46. https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msq159.
Bentlage, B., A. T. Peterson, and P. Cartwright. 2009. “Inferring Distributions of Chirodropid Box-Jellyfishes (Cnidaria: Cubozoa) in Geographic and Ecological Space Using Ecological Niche Modeling.” Journal Articles. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 384: 121–33.
Evans, N. M., A. Lindner, E. V. Raikova, A. G. Collins, and P. Cartwright. 2008. “Phylogenetic Placement of the Enigmatic Parasite, Polypodium Hydriforme, within the Phylum Cnidaria.” Journal Articles. BMC Evol. Biol. 8: 139.
Cartwright, P., N. M. Evans, C. W. Dunn, A. C. Marques, M. P. Miglietta, and A. G. Collins. 2008. “Phylogenetics of Hydroidolina (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa).” Journal Articles. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. 88 (8): 1163–1672.
Collins, A. G., B. Bentlage, D. Lindsay, S. H. D. Haddock, A. Lindner, J. L. Norenburg, G. Jarms, T. Jankowski, and P. Cartwright. 2008. “Phylogenetics of Trachylina (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa).” Journal Articles. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. 88: 1673–85.
Cartwright, P., S. L. Halgedahl, J. R. Hendricks, R. D. Jarrard, A. C. Marques, A. G. Collins, and B. L. Lieberman. 2007. “Exceptionally Preserved Jellyfishes from the Middle Cambrian.” Journal Articles. PLoS ONE 2 (10): e1121: p. 1-9.
Cartwright, P., and A. G. Collins. 2007. “Fossils and Phylogenies: Integrating Multiple Lines of Evidence to Investigate the Origin of Early Major Metazoan Lineages.” Journal Articles. Integ. Comp. Biol. 47 (5): 744–51.
Cartwright, P., and M. Daly. 2007. “The Phylum Cnidaria: A Review of Phylogenetic Patterns and Diversity 300 Years after Linnaeus.” Journal Articles. Edited by Z. Zhang and W. A. Shear. Zootaxa 1668: 127–82.
Cartwright, P., B. Schierwater, and L. W. Buss. 2006. “Expression of a Gsx Parahox Gene in Colony Ontogeny in Hydractinia (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa).” Journal Articles. Journ. Exp. Zool. (Mol Dev Evol) 306B: 460–69.
Collins, A. G., P. Cartwright, C. S. McFadden, and B. Schierwater. 2005. “Phylogenetic Context and Basal Metazoan Model Systems.” Journal Articles. Integ. Comp. Biol. 45: 585–94.

Selected Presentations

Cartwright, P., Orive, M. E., & Chang, E. S. (9/30/2017). Non-clonal coloniality: A unique form of colony development in the hydrozoan Ectopleura larynx. International Workshop on Hydrozoan Development. Tutizng, Germany. http://hydra-meeting.de/
Cartwright, P. (9/30/2016). Investigating the role of the Runx gene in cnidarian regeneration. Hydroidfest. Bodega May Marine Laboratory

Grants & Other Funded Activity

Career: Integrating phylogenetics and development to investigate character evolution in hydrozoans. NSF DEB-0953571. NSF DEB. $750000.00. (1/1/2010 - 12/31/2018). Federal. Status: Funded
ICOB: Molecular and morphological characterization of polar capsules in the parasitic Myxozoa. NSF IOS 1321659. NSF IOS. $249943.00. (1/1/2013 - 12/31/2018). Federal. Status: Funded
Assembling the tree of life-An integrative approach to investigating cnidarian phylogeny. NSF AToL, DEB 05-31799. NSF AToL, DEB. $1610000.00. (1/1/2005 - 12/31/2012). Federal. Status: Funded. $2,854,116 ($1,610,000 to KU), PI with co-PIs Daphne Fautin and Allen Collins. REU supplement (2007, $12,000), co-PI Daphne Fautin and (2010, $6,000) sole PI