We aim to understand how the diversity of form in the animal kingdom evolved. The focus of our research is the connection between the evolution of animal genome organisation and development, with a particular concentration on the homeobox-containing genes. The Hox gene cluster is established as a corner-stone of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, but much about the evolution of its organisation and mode of operation remains unknown. Also the Hox cluster is not unique as a homeobox gene cluster controlling animal development, further clusters being the ParaHox and NK clusters, all of which evolved within larger arrays of homeobox genes (the Mega-cluster and Super-Hox cluster). We utilize a variety of organisms in our research (including amphioxus, sea squirts, polychaetes and priapulids), chosen from key points in the phylogeny of the animals to enable reconstruction of the ancestral conditions at major nodes in the animal kingdom; the origin of bilaterians, protostomes, deuterostomes, chordates and vertebrates.
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