William F. Gilly received a BSE (Electrical Engineering, 1972) from Princeton and a Ph.D. (Physiology and Biophysics, 1978) from Washington University. He had additional training at Yale University, University of Pennsylvania and the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole. He has contributed to our basic understanding of electrical excitability in nerve and muscle cells in a wide range of organisms ranging from brittle-stars to mammals. Much of this work employed the giant axon system of the squid as an experimental model system for molecular and biophysical approaches. Additional studies with living squid revealed unexpected complexities in how the giant axon system controls escape responses, and how mechanisms governing that control are modified during development and by environmental factors.
Professor Gilly's current research program on squid concentrates on the behavior, physiology and ecology of Dosidicus gigas, the jumbo or Humboldt squid. Fieldwork in the Gulf of California and off Monterey Bay employs electronic tagging and acoustic methods in order to track vertical and horizontal movements and to estimate biomass. Laboratory studies at Hopkins Marine Station and onboard research vessels focus on hypoxia tolerance and on control of chromatophores, the color-changing organs in the skin. Oceanographic measurements are used to characterize temperature and oxygen levels in relation to vertical movements.
Gilly’s lab also has a history of research on venomous and toxic animals. Work on cone snails addresses the biological factors that lead to toxin diversity within an individual Conus species and mechanisms by which toxins are produced, selected for use and delivered. Tropical species as well as a temperate, local species (Conus californicus) are studied. Tetrodotoxin-bearing salamanders are also being studied in regard to molecular mechanisms of TTX-resistance in voltage-gated sodium channels and how this phenotype has evolved in both toxic salamanders and their main predators, garter snakes.
Members of Professor Gilly's laboratory have gone on to faculty positions at the University of Washington, University of Utah, University of Pennsylvania, Albert Einstein Medical College and University of Puerto Rico.
Selected Publications (2003-2008)
Benoit-Bird, K.J., Gilly, W.F., Au, W.W.L. and Mate, B. 2008, Controlled and in situ target
Staaf, D.J., Camarillo-Coop, S., Haddock, S.H.D., Nyack, A.C., Payne, J., Salinas-Zavala, C.A., Seibel, B.A., Trueblood, L., Widmer, C. and Gilly, W. F. 2008. Natural egg mass deposition by the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) in the Gulf of California and characteristics of hatchlings and paralarvae. Journal of the Marrine Biological Association of the UK 88: 759-770.
Bograd, S.G., Castro, C.G., Di Lorenzo, E., Palacios, D.M., Bailey, H., Gilly, W. and Chavez, F.P. 2008. Oxygen declines and the shoaling of the hypoxic boundary in the California Current. Geophysical Research Letters 35, L12607, doi:10.1029/2008GL034185.
Davis, R.W., Jaquet, N., Gendron, D., Markaida, U., Bazzino, G. and Gilly, W. 2007. Diving behavior of sperm whales in relation to the behavior of a major prey-species, the jumbo squid, in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 333:291-302
Gilly, W.F., Markaida, U., Baxter, C. H., Block, B.A, Boustany, A., Zeidberg, Reisenbichler, K., Robison, B., Bazzino, G. and Salinas, C. 2006. Vertical and horizontal migrations by the jumbo squid Dosidicus gigas revealed by electronic tagging. Marine Ecology Progress Series 324:1-17. [fulltext]
Gilly, W.F. 2006. John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts and Holistic Biology: A New Voyage to the Sea of Cortez. Phi Beta Kappa -- The Key Reporter 71: 10-11. [fulltext]
Stewart, J. and Gilly, W.F. 2005. Piscivorous behavior of a temperate cone snail, Conus californicus. Biolological Bulletin 209: 146-153.
Jaubowski, J.A., Kelley, W.P., Sweedler, J.V., Gilly, W.F. and Schulz, J.R. 2005. Intraspecific variation of venom injected by fish-hunting Conus snails. Journal of Experimental Biology 208: 2873-2883.
Sack, J.T., Aldrich, R.W. and Gilly, W.F. 2004. A gastropod toxin selectively slows early transitions in the Shaker K channel’s activation pathway. Journal of General Physiology 123:685-696.
Schulz JR, Norton AG, and Gilly WF. 2004. The projectile tooth of a fish-hunting cone snail: Conus catus injects venom into fish prey using a high-speed ballistic mechanism. Biological Bulletin 207: 77-79.Rosenthal, J.J.C. and Gilly, W.F. 2003. Identified ion channels in the squid nervous system. Neurosignals 12: 126-141.
Photo courtesy of L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service