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Department of Zoology



The Gillis Lab studies the embryonic development of cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skates, rays and holocephalans), in order to better understand the origin and early evolution of the vertebrate body plan. We are particularly interested in the development and evolution of jawed vertebrate skeletal and sensory systems.


Key publications: 
  • 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