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Ego sum Daniel

You've reached Daniel Ocampo Daza, resident of Uppsala, Sweden, enfant terrible, glasses-wearer, beard enthusiast, Mac user, musicophile, evol biologist and PhD in medical science

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About Me

The Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala has awarded me a Benzelius prize in the Biology-Medicine class, with the motivation - For your pre-eminent studies of vertebrate genomes. The prize was handed over at a public ceremony in Uppsala on September 1, 2015.

The Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala is Sweden's oldest scientific academy, founded in 1710, and counts Carl Linnaeus, Olof Rudbeck the younger and Anders Celsius among its early members. The Benzelius award, named for the founder of the society, Erik Benzelius the younger, was founded in the 1980's to promote and reward young researchers. At this year's prize ceremony seven Benzelius prizes were awarded, along with other awards.

The Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala has granted me a Benzelius prize in the Biology-Medicine class, with the motivation - For your pre-eminent studies of vertebrate genomes. The prize was handed over at a public ceremony in Uppsala on September 1, 2015.

The Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala is Sweden's oldest scientific academy, founded in 1710, and counts Carl Linnaeus, Olof Rudbeck the younger and Anders Celsius among its early members. The Benzelius award was founded in the 1980's, named for the founder of the society, Erik Benzelius the younger, to promote and reward young researchers. At this year's prize ceremony seven Benzelius prizes were granted, along with other awards.


January 6th 1984, Valledupar, Colombia

Swedish citizen; Resident of Uppsala, Sweden


Music, Painting, Science, Illustration & Web design, Baking


E-mail: daniel.ocampo.daza /at/ gmail.com


I received my M.Sc. in biology from Uppsala University in 2007 and subsequently pursued a doctorate under the supervision of prof. Dan Larhammar at the Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University. I defended my thesis "Evolution of Vertebrate Endocrine and Neuronal Gene Families: Focus on Pituitary and Retina" on 1 March 2013, receiving a Ph.D. in medical science.

I have teaching qualifications and experience with lectures, small group seminars, practical tutoring, demonstrations and problem-based learning as well as course administration and curriculum building.

Skills summary

Evolution, Neuroscience, Comparative endocrinology, Scientific writing, Molecular evolution, Sequence analysis, Phylogenetics, Genome Analysis, Gene prediction and annotation, Bioinformatics


  • Native/bilingual proficiency in Spanish and Swedish
  • Full professional proficiency in English


2013 — Ph.D. in Medical Science
Uppsala University, Department of Neuroscience

2007 — M.Sc. in Biology
Uppsala University


January 6th 1984, Valledupar, Colombia
Swedish citizen; Resident of Uppsala, Sweden


Music, Painting, Science, Illustration & Web design, Baking


E-mail: daniel.ocampo.daza /at/ gmail.com

Download CV (PDF)

Bioinformatics is simultaneously a scientific field and a set of methods for the analysis of biological data using computational tools. The study of how organisms or biological molecules are related through evolution is called phylogenetics, and evolutionary relationships are visualised through diagrams called phylogenetic trees.


Understanding our evolutionary past through the language of our genes

As vertebrates, we are united by a common ancestry that stretches back to the Cambrian period, some 500 million years ago. Since then, vertebrates have occupied an astonishingly diverse set of ecological niches. Vertebrates live on almost every place on earth; from deep ocean trenches to arid deserts. The early evolution of vertebrates was a period of great innovation. It set the foundation for the great variety of complex and specialised functions that have allowed us to diversify and spread. Our mineralised bone structures and complex nervous systems stem back to this period, for example.

There is now convincing evidence that a group of our early ancestors doubled their genetic material twice during this period. This happened through a process called whole-genome duplication. It is the most drastic mutation possible: The doubling of the total genetic content including genes, regulatory sequences and non-functional DNA. We know that this had a great impact on vertebrate evolution because we can still find many of those twice duplicated genes in living vertebrates. A third whole-genome duplication occurred in the early evolution of teleost fishes. Similarly, we can find additional gene copies in teleosts resulting from this event. Teleost fishes are the most species-rich vertebrate group, although it is debated whether this is because of their ancestral genome duplication.

Duplication, be it of individual genes, segments of chromosomes, or of whole genomes, is one of evolution's driving forces. It generates new genetic material that mutation and selection can act upon to generate new functions, while still keeping the original function in one of the copies. In this way, evolution can add new genetic building blocks on top of a previously laid foundation. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin hinted at this: "it is quite probable that natural selection, during a long-continued course of modification, should have seized on a certain number of the primordially similar elements, many times repeated, and have adapted them to the most diverse purposes." Of course Darwin did not know about genes, but the fundamental principle is the same.

As genome sequences began to fill the literature, even the most molecular and computational of biologists have become like naturalists. They wander through diverse landscapes of As, Ts, Gs and Cs, comparing genomes and wonder about the origin of the distinct classes of variation found there.

In the previous decade we have seen an unprecedented advance in DNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatics tools. There is now openly available genome data from an ever growing number of organisms, including many vertebrates. This allows us to study the consequences of ancient whole-genome duplications and other genomic events with greater accuracy and resolution than ever. Because we share a common ancestry, we can explore the evolution of vertebrates by comparing DNA sequences across different vertebrate groups. Like archaeologists looking for clues to the past in the soil, or naturalists exploring new and unknown environments, we can wade through the vast stretches of DNA sequences and explore the contents of different genomes; trying to identify genes and figuring out the puzzle of how they are related to each other and how they evolved.

This is the backdrop for my research, which explores the evolution of endocrine and neurobiological gene families in vertebrates. That is, families of genes involved in the hormonal control of the body and in the nervous system. By combining genomic analyses with molecular phylogenetics it was possible to conclude that the ancient whole-genome duplications in vertebrates likely contributed greatly to the evolution of processes such as vision, neural communication, growth and osmoregulation (the control of water balance).

This is not only an interesting evolutionary puzzle. Knowing more about our evolutionary past, where we come from and how we got here, is a fundamental human pursuit. But understanding our evolution through the language of our genes also benefits applied biological research. Functional studies can profit greatly from the combination of genomic and evolutionary approaches. Not least through the increased understanding of the important model organisms that are used in laboratories to understand human diseases. Together with the fast development of DNA sequencing, and the vast amounts of data that have been generated, this means that it has become essential for biologists of all fields to consult sequence databases and analyse genomic data. It is no longer restricted to a small number of specialists. This is where my research is currently leading; To help bridge the gap between the fields of evolution, genomics and bioinformatics, and to facilitate their applications in different types of research.


The discovery of new genetic components in hormonal systems

The expansion of pituitary hormone systems constitutes one of the great innovations in vertebrate evolution and underlies the physiological adaptations that have allowed vertebrates to thrive and diversify in a large number of varied habitats. Genomic analyses have revealed a previously unrecognised diversity in vertebrate pituitary systems. Among the new components that my research has uncovered are genes for a previously unidentified prolactin-related hormone, prolactin 2, several new subtypes of vasopressin type 2 receptors, and a new subtype of somatostatin receptor, SST6. These genes all originated early in the evolution of vertebrates, but have been lost from different branches of the vertebrate tree. Notably, none of these are present in humans or other mammals, but are prevalent in for example different groups of fish. This pattern of early diversification followed by differential losses can make it complicated to accurately draw comparisons across groups. For example, it turns out that birds have conserved a different type of vasopressin type 2 receptor than mammals, explaining the different properties that had been observed between these groups. Meanwhile, all three types of vasopressin type 2 receptor can be found in teleost fishes, despite previous conclusions that they had none at all.

What is a fish? When describing evolutionary relationships the word "fish" is almost entirely useless. What we call "fish" usually belongs to the group of teleost fishes, the most numerous group, like the pike in the image above. Or perhaps we refer to a shark, a cartilaginous fish, like the dogfish above. In actual fact these species are not closely related. Teleost fishes are more closely related to us four-limbed land vertebrates, or tetrapods, marked in red above. Every branch of the vertebrate evolutionary tree contains animals we might call "fish" - "any aquatic vertebrate that possesses gills and fins (if any appendages)". Speaking inclusively, all vertebrates are fish, and some of them are more closely related to you than to the "fish" you might have for lunch.
The origin of vertebrate color vision

The reason we can see in color is due to the presence of different specialised light receptor cells, cones, in our retinas. Simply put, each of these cells expresses a specific light receptor, a color opsin, with a specific color sensitivity. Our brains put together the input from the different cones into vivid color images of our surroundings. In addition to cones we also have rods, light receptor cells with the opsin rhodopsin, which allow us to see in low light. Humans have three color opsins and one rhodopsin. Other animals have more, some have less. The setup of opsin varies quite a bit depending on the type of color information the organism has evolved to see. However, the basic vertebrate setup consists of one rhodopsin and four color opsins: ultraviolet-sensitive, blue-sensitive, green-sensitive and red-sensitive.

Research that I have participated in shows that the genes for these four color opsins originated in the whole-genome duplications that occurred in early vertebrate evolution. This means that the basis for color vision in vertebrates originated relatively suddenly, during a decisive period in vertebrate evolution. The differentiation into different color sensitivities also happened relatively quickly. This also means that color vision is just as old as low light vision in vertebrates, contrary to some hypotheses saying that low-light vision evolved much earlier. What is clear is that it was important for our earliest ancestors to experience their surroundings in vivid color, likely because they adapted to life in bright shallow seas.


Below are a selection of my peer reviewed papers with abstracts. You can also download a full list by clicking on all publications. You can also visit my Google Scholar and Impactstory profiles. Learn more about Impactstory here. All articles are freely available through open access publishing, free preprints, or through my personal copies. Read more about open access and my open data here.

All publications (PDF)

Selected articles

Molecular evolution of GPCRs: Somatostatin/urotensin II receptors

Tostivint H, Ocampo Daza D, Bergqvist CA, Quan FB, Bougerol M, Lihrmann I and Larhammar D, 2014.
Journal of Molecular Endocrinology 52(3): T61-T86.

Somatostatin (SS) and urotensin II (UII) are members of two families of structurally related neuropeptides present in all vertebrates. They exert a large array of biological activities that are mediated by two families of G-protein-coupled receptors called SSTR and UTS2R, respectively. It is proposed that the two families of peptides as well as those of their receptors likely derive from a single ancestral ligand-receptor pair. This pair had already been duplicated before the emergence of vertebrates to generate one SS peptide with two receptors, and one UII peptide with one receptor. Thereafter, each family expanded in the three whole genome duplications (1R, 2R and 3R) that occurred during vertebrate evolution whereupon some local duplications and gene losses took place.... Read more

The vertebrate ancestral repertoire of visual opsins, transducin alpha subunits and oxytocin/vasopressin receptors was established by duplication of their shared genomic region in the two rounds of early vertebrate genome duplications

Lagman D1, Ocampo Daza D1, Widmark J, Abalo XM, Sundström G and Larhammar D, 2013.
BMC Evolutionary Biology 13:238. 1Equal contributors.

Vertebrate color vision is dependent on four major color opsin subtypes: RH2 (green opsin), SWS1 (ultraviolet opsin), SWS2 (blue opsin), and LWS (red opsin). Together with the dim-light receptor rhodopsin (RH1), these form the family of vertebrate visual opsins. Vertebrate genomes contain many multi-membered gene families that can largely be explained by the two rounds of whole genome duplication (WGD) in the vertebrate ancestor (2R) followed by a third round in the teleost ancestor (3R). Related chromosome regions resulting from WGD or block duplications are said to form a paralogon. We describe here a paralogon containing the genes for visual opsins, the G-protein alpha subunit families for transducin (GNAT) and adenylyl cyclase inhibition (GNAI), the oxytocin and vasopressin receptors (OT/VP-R), and the L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (CACNA1-L)... Read more

Evidence of chromosomal rearrangements in teleost fish species. The image shows paralogous chromosome regions bearing SSTR genes in the stickleback and zebrafish genomes. The upper color blocks represent ancestral chromosome regions in each lineage. Dashed boxes represent losses of chromosome blocks. Chromosome rearrangements involving blocks of genes are represented by arrows, while smaller translocations of genes are represented by dashed arrows. Source: Ocampo Daza D et al. (2012) BMC Evol. Biol. 2012, 12:231
The evolution of vertebrate somatostatin receptors and their gene regions involves extensive chromosomal rearrangements

Ocampo Daza D, Sundström G, Bergqvist CA and Larhammar D, 2012.
BMC Evolutionary Biology 12:231.

Somatostatin and its related neuroendocrine peptides have a wide variety of physiological functions that are mediated by five somatostatin receptors with gene names SSTR1-5 in mammals. To resolve their evolution in vertebrates we have investigated the SSTR genes and a large number of adjacent gene families by phylogeny and conserved synteny analyses in a broad range of vertebrate species. We find that the SSTRs form two families that belong to distinct paralogons. We observe not only chromosomal similarities reflecting the paralogy relationships between the SSTR-bearing chromosome regions, but also extensive rearrangements between these regions in teleost fish genomes, including fusions and translocations followed by reshuffling through intrachromosomal rearrangements... Read more

The oxytocin/vasopressin receptor family has at least five members in the gnathostome lineage, including two distinct V2 subtypes

Ocampo Daza D, Lewicka M and Larhammar D, 2012.
General and Comparative Endocrinology 175(1): 135-43.

Until recently only V1-type receptors have been described in several species of teleost fishes. We have identified family members in several gnathostome genomes and performed phylogenetic analyses to classify OT/VP-receptors across species and determine orthology relationships. Our phylogenetic tree identifies five distinct ancestral gnathostome receptor subtypes in the OT/VP receptor family: V1A, V1B, V2A, V2B and OT receptors. The existence of distinct V2A and V2B receptors has not been previously recognized. We have found these two subtypes in all examined teleost genomes as well as in available frog and lizard genomes and conclude that the V2A-type is orthologous to mammalian V2 receptors whereas the V2B-type is orthologous to avian V2 receptors. Some teleost fishes have acquired additional and more recent gene duplicates with up to eight receptor family members. Thus, this analysis reveals an unprecedented complexity in the gnathostome repertoire of OT/VP receptors... Read more

Open science

I aim to share all data files and supporting information underlying the scientific papers of which I am the principal author under Open Science principles. These principles include the freedom for anyone to use, reuse and redistribute the data and supporting information - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike. To this effect, I share datasets openly using figshare. These datasets are citable, using stable identifiers, and easily shared. Learn more about open science at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Figshare profile


These are simple illustrations of species whose genomes have been sequenced, as well as a few others of taxonomic interest. I created these to use in presentations, lectures, posters et c, and make them freely available for others to download and use. You can see some examples here or here. Preview all the illustrations by clicking on the link to the shared folder below, or look at the sample image above.

I have licensed most of these illustrations under a Free Culture License by Creative Commons. This means that, with some exceptions*, you are free to use them for any purpose without asking for permission as long as you attribute them to Daniel Ocampo Daza, including a link to www.egosumdaniel.se. Find detailed information under Credits & License below. I took precautions to use only non-copyrighted/non-restricted images as references for these illustrations. However, if you think a photo that you own the rights to or license exclusively has been used as a reference, please contact me.

Download here


Credits & License

All original work by Daniel Ocampo Daza on www.egosumdaniel.se is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. A share-alike license prevents you from using this work in anything you or someone else will retain full copyright on. Learn more about Creative Commons here. This license does not apply to any material posted from outside sources. *Zebrafish illustration based on a photo by Dries Knapen, used by kind permission and shared under a separate Creative Commons license. Sea lamprey illustration based on a photo by Jan Yde Poulsen.

Langdon typeface by xIntelecom. Quicksand typeface by Andrew Paglinawan. Carrois Gothic typeface by Carrois Type Design. Source Sans Pro typeface by Adobe.

Creative Commons License