Genetic Basis of Fin Diversity

One of the most intriguing questions in biology is evolutionary mechanisms of morphological novelties and diversity in a variety of environments. Paired fins show extreme disparity in shape and size, as exemplified by the fins of extinct and extant cartilaginous and bony fish. Among them, unique fins of skates and rays are striking examples of novelty. In skates (Leucoraja erinacea), the pectoral fin develops cranially and fuses with the flattened head, resulting in a body adapted to benthic life.  By using functional genomics, we found that the posterior portion of the skate pectoral fin has a gene expression profile that is composed of a canonical genetic module as noted in tetrapods. In contrast, the anterior portion of the fin extends cranially by a non canonical genetic module. For this research, we work at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts (2014 and 2018 MBL research awardee), where we manipulate skate eggs, including injections, cell labeling and implantations. 

Currently, collaboration with Skate Genome Consortium is in progress to understand the genetic basis of skate unique body development. 

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