A central question of evolutionary developmental biology is to understand how natural selection modifies developmental processes to generate the diversity of forms observed across metazoans. Our group addresses this fundamental question using a macroevolutionary approach and focussing on vertebrates and key adaptations in the taxon, such as the rise of extraembryonic tissues or the formation of epithalamic left-right asymmetries.
We concentrate analyses on two non-conventional vertebrate model organisms occupying key phylogenetic positions in the taxon, a cyclostome (or agnathan), the lamprey P. marinus, and a chondrichthyan (or cartilaginous fish), the catshark S. canicula. We use combinations of descriptive, functional and experimental, transcriptomic and genomic approaches to decipher molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling development in these species. Systematic comparisons with established vertebrate models, such as the mouse, chick, xenopus and zebrafish, allow us to reconstruct vertebrate or gnathostome ancestral traits and to infer the diversifications that have taken place in the major vertebrate lineages. These data provide insights into the constraints, which shape the architecture of developmental Gene Regulatory Networks and channel their evolution.