NIBB-Academia Sinica International Webinar of Aquatic Model Organisms for Basic Biology to Human Disease Models

Speaker: Dr. Yi-Hsien Su

Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan

Talk title: Evolutionary origins of chordates: Insights from developmental mechanisms of sea urchins and hemichordates


My lab has been interested in understanding how animals generate their body forms during development and evolution. We use sea urchin and hemichordate acorn worm as experimental systems for developmental and comparative studies. Sea urchins belong to the phylum Echinodermata, and together with the phylum Hemichordata constitute the superclade Ambulacraria that is closely related to our own phylum, Chordata; these three phyla belong to deuterostomes. Therefore, investigating and comparing developmental mechanisms of echinoderms and hemichordates would help us to reconstruct ancestral condition of Ambulacraria. Extending such comparison to chordates, including invertebrate chordates and vertebrates, the developmental mechanisms of the deuterostome ancestor could be deduced. These comparative studies have enabled us to make testable hypotheses for interrogating how changes in developmental programs could have led to novel body plans in deuterostomes, especially for deciphering the mysterious origins of several novel features of the chordates.