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Department of Zoology



The Gillis Lab studies embryonic development of the skeleton, sensory and neuroendocrine systems of vertebrate animals. Our work uses a comparative approach and a diverse array of model organisms, in order to reconstruct the origin and early evolution of the vertebrate body plan.


Key publications: 
  • Hirschberger C, Sleight VA, Criswell KE, Clark SJ, Gillis JA (2021) Conserved and unique transcriptional features of pharyngeal arches in the skate (Leucoraja erinacea) and evolution of the jaw. Mol. Biol. Evol.

  • Sleight VA, Gillis JA (2020) Embryonic origin and serial homology of gill arches and paired fins in the skate, Leucoraja erinacea. eLife 9: e60635.

  • Marconi A, Hancock-Ronemus A, Gillis JA (2020) Adult chondrogenesis and spontaneous cartilage repair in the skate, Leucoraja erinacea. eLife 9: e53414.

  • Criswell KE, Gillis JA (2020) Resegmentation is an ancestral feature of the gnathostome vertebral skeleton. eLife 9: e51696.

  • Gillis JA, Alsema EC, Criswell KE (2017) A trunk neural crest origin of dermal denticles in a cartilaginous fish. Proc. Nat’l Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114: 13200-13205.

  • Criswell KE, Coates MI, Gillis JA (2017) Embryonic origin of the gnathostome vertebral column. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 284: 20172121.

  • Gillis JA, Tidswell ORA (2017) The origin of vertebrate gills. Curr. Biol. 27: 729-732. 

  • Gillis JA, Hall BK (2016) A shared role for sonic hedgehog signalling in patterning chondrichthyan gill arch appendages and tetrapod limbs. Development 143: 1313-1317.

  • Gillis JA, Modrell MS, Baker CVH (2013) Developmental evidence for serial homology of the vertebrate jaw and gill arch endoskeleton. Nat. Commun. 4: 1436.

  • Gillis JA, Modrell MS, Northcutt RG, Catania KC, Luer C, Baker CVH (2012) Electrosensory ampullary organs are derived from lateral line placodes in cartilaginous fishes. Development 139: 3142-3146.

  • Gillis JA, Fritzenwanker JH, Lowe CJ (2012) A stem-deuterostome origin of the vertebrate pharyngeal arch transcriptional network. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 279:237-246.

  • King BL, Gillis JA, Carlisle HR, Dahn RD (2011) A naturally occurring deletion of the entire HoxC cluster in elasmobranch fishes. Science 334: 1517.

  • Gillis JA, Rawlinson KA, Bell J, Lyon WS, Baker CVH, Shubin NH (2011) Holocephalan embryos provide evidence for gill arch appendage reduction and opercular evolution in cartilaginous fishes. Proc. Nat’l Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 108: 1507-1512.

  • Gillis JA, Dahn RD, Shubin NH (2009) Shared developmental mechanisms pattern the gill arch and paired fin skeletons in vertebrates. Proc. Nat’l Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 106: 5720-5724.

Royal Society University Research Fellow

Contact Details

T17 (Office)
T8/T10 (Lab)
Zoology Building
01223 (3)34452