University of Cambridge > > Evolution and Development Seminar Series > Adaptation for life on land – remodelling the pharynx in development and evolution

Adaptation for life on land – remodelling the pharynx in development and evolution

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The pharynx is an important region of the vertebrate body that is involved in many key processes including feeding, respiratory and vascular functions, immune and endocrine activities. However, with the colonisation of land by vertebrates, the pharynx underwent substantial modification. In this talk, I will discuss the development of the pharynx and how this has been altered to facilitate terrestrial life. To understand how the development of the pharynx has been modified through evolution, we take a comparative approach. This involves analysing pharyngeal development using a range of cellular and molecular approaches: immunostaining, in situ hybridisation, morpholino knockdowns, lineage tracing and pharmacological inhibition of signalling pathways, in embryos that are chosen for the phylogenetic position. We have considered how several features have been altered. The gills and their covering, the operculum, have been lost and the number of embryonic segments reduced. Yet new structures such as the parathyroid glands and larynx have also emerged. Our work is significant as it lays out the developmental changes that underpinned these alterations. It further highlights the progressive nature of evolutionary change and shows that the modifications underpinning the emergence of the tetrapods were not as abrupt as previously believed.

This talk is part of the Evolution and Development Seminar Series series.

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