The evolution of morphological diversity of bilateral animals is one of the important issues of biology. Bilateral animals (bilaterians) consist of three major superphyla: Deuterostomia (for example, vertebrates, ascidians, and echinoderms), Ecdysozoa (for example, arthropods and nematodes), and Lophotrochozoa (for example, annelids and mollusks). To understand the evolution of the bilateral animal body plan, it is important to compare the developmental mechanisms of these groups.
When I was an undergraduate student, I was excited to learn the molecular and cellular basis for beautiful pattern formation of embryos and I decided to learn more. During the graduate school and postdoctoral work, I studied the embryonic development of the oligochaete annelid Tubifex, the gastropod mollusk Ilyanassa, and the flour beetle Tribolium. Their body plans are very different; however, they share some aspects of early developmental processes such as cell lineages, cleavage patterns, and segmentation. These similarities and differences provide us with interesting insights into the evolution of the animal body plan. My current major project is to study the cell polarity and morphogenesis of embryos of the ascidian Halocynthia roretzi. Ascidians belong to the sister group of the vertebrates. Therefore it is expected that ascidian research will also help our understanding of vertebrate evolution.
The Zoological Society of Japan
Marine Biology and Laboratory Course I
The animal kingdom has approximately 35 phyla and each phylum is characterized by a specific body plan. There is a great diversity of body plans, especially for marine invertebrates; however, they all develop from a single cell (fertilized egg) to generate beautiful and complex structures with precise timing. This has been one of the biggest mysteries of life and we still have not explored it enough. Currently I would like to understand the evolution of embryonic development using the ascidian as a model system. Please visit our laboratory web site for details.
“What do we live for?” This has been one of the classic and difficult questions throughout history. However, do we even know enough about the biological aspects of life and living to ask this question? Learning the universal or unique principles of life not only accumulates our knowledge, but also fosters us to think deeply about the above question. I hope you will keep your curiosity about nature; that can be the most important motivation for research. We would welcome the student who likes oceans and embryos of marine invertebrates.