Complexity in organ shape often arises from functional adaptation.
The genetic and developmental framework for complex shapes is often the same as simple ones, just with a bit of tinkering. Robert is exploring this idea using the carnivorous plant Utricularia gibba.
This plant sports both radial leaves and prey-capturing traps which are highly modified cup-shaped leaves. How this shape is formed using the same machinery as flat leaves remains unknown.
Robert is using individuals from a mutant screen, the first of its kind, to identify which genes play a role in formation of this complex shape, whether they be known leaf-development genes or novel ones.