Evolution and development of pharyngeal pouches and pre-oral gut in basal fishes
Goal: The origin of the phenomenal diversity of vertebrates lies in the transition of their life style from small filter feeding to large actively foraging creatures. This evolutionary event was enabled by modifications to the pharynx of our chordate ancestors leading to the evolution of sophisticated head skeleton. In this project, supported by EU via MSCA-IF Fellowship (2017-2019) I used developmental-genetic approach in phylogenetic comparative framework to study the structural and developmental changes in pharyngeal evolution in early vertebrate divergences, namely around the split of jawed and jawless fishes and in the diversification of early bony fishes. Specifically, I focused on understanding the similarities and differences in the formation of various parts of pharynx and related tissues, such as pharyngeal pouches, preoral gut, and neural crest, and their importance in the evolution of vertebrate head skeleton. The integral part of the project was two-way knowledge transfer between me and the host laboratory (Cerny lab, Charles University in Prague) in an attempt to synergize our experience in embryology and functional genetics and generate resources for future evolutionary developmental research.
Date: 31 August 2017 - 30 August 2019