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Department of Zoology



My research focuses on understanding the evolutionary origins of complex traits within the vertebrate head. Such complex traits include an elaborated ventricular brain, neural crest and placodal derivatives, and the development of craniofacial structures. Because of their absence outside the vertebrate subphylum, they are generally regarded as vertebrate innovations, thus closely linked to the invertebrate-vertebrate transition. My main objective is to decipher the molecular changes that underlie the emergence of such morphological innovations, which likely facilitated the evolution and radiation of vertebrates on earth. To do this, I use the pre-vertebrate amphioxus (cephalochordate) as a model system, since it is currently regarded as the best extant proxy to the ancestral chordate that gave rise to all vertebrates.


Key publications: 

- Benito-Gutiérrez E, Weber H, Bryant DV, Arendt D (2013) Methods for generating year-round access to amphioxus in the laboratory. PLoS One. 8:e71599.
- Vopalensky P, Pergner J, Liegertova M, Benito-Gutiérrez E, Arendt D, Kozmik Z (2012) Molecular analysis of the amphioxus frontal eye unravels the evolutionary origin of the retina and pigment cells of the vertebrate eye. PNAS U S A. 109:15383-8.
- Benito-Gutiérrez E & Arendt D (2009) CNS evolution: new insight from the mud. Curr Biol. 19:R640-2.
- Benito-Gutiérrez E (2006) A gene catalogue of the amphioxus nervous system. Int J Biol Sci. 2:149-60.
- Benito-Gutiérrez E, Nake C, Llovera M, Comella JX & Garcia-Fernandez J (2005) The single AmphiTrk receptor highlights increased complexity of neurotrophin signalling in vertebrates and suggests an early role in developing sensory neuroepidermal cells. Development. 132:2191-202.
-Benito-Gutiérrez E, Illas M, Comella JX & Garcia-Fernandez J (2005) Outlining the nascent nervous system of Branchiostoma floridae (amphioxus) by the pan-neural marker AmphiElav. Brain Res Bull. 66:518-21.

Other publications: 

- Arendt D, Benito-Gutierrez E, Brunet T, Marlow H (2015) Gastric pouches and the mucociliary sole: setting the stage for nervous system evolution. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2015 Dec 19;370(1684).
- Benito-Gutiérrez E (2011) Amphioxus as a Model for Mechanisms in Vertebrate Development. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences [DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021773].
- Garcia-Fernandez, J. & Benito-Gutierrez, E (2009) It's a long way from amphioxus: descendants of the earliest chordate. Bioessays. 31:665-75.
- Garcia-Fernandez J, Jimenez-Delgado S, Pascual-Anaya J, Maeso I, Irimia M, Minguillon C, Benito-Gutierrez E, Gardenyes J, Bertrand S & D'Aniello S (2009) From the American to the European amphioxus: towards experimental Evo-Devo at the origin of chordates. Int J Dev Biol. 53:1359-66.
- Putnam NH, Butts T, Ferrier DE, Furlong RF, Hellsten U, Kawashima T, Robinson-Rechavi, M, Shoguchi E, Terry A, Yu JK, Benito-Gutierrez E et al. (2008) The amphioxus genome and the evolution of the chordate karyotype. Nature. 453:1064-71.
- Holland LZ, Satoh N, Azumi K, Benito-Gutiérrez E, Bronner-Fraser M, et al. (2008) Primitive and derived characters in the amphioxus genome. Genome Research. 18: 1100-11.
- Fuentes M, Benito E, Bertrand S, Paris M, Mignardot A, Godoy L et al. (2007) Insights into spawning behavior and development of the European amphioxus (Branchiostoma lanceolatum). J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 308:484-93.
- Benito-Gutierrez E, Garcia-Fernandez J. & Comella, JX (2006) Origin and evolution of the Trk family of neurotrophic receptors. Mol Cell Neurosci. 31:179-92.
- Benito-Gutiérrez E & Garcia-Fernàndez J (2005) AmphiTrk: An ancestral perspective on present complex nervous systems. Mechanisms of Development. 122: S163-S164.
- Garcia-Fernàndez, J, Benito-Gutiérrez E, Gardenyes J, Jiménez-Delgado S, D’Aniello S, Lloret F and Pascual-Anaya J (2005) Amphioxus: Post-genomics and functional Evo-Devo at the invertebrate-vertebrate transition”. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 141: S119.
- Fuentes M, Schubert M, Dalfo D, Candiani S, Benito E., et al. (2004) Preliminary observations on the spawning conditions of the European amphioxus (Branchiostoma lanceolatum) in captivity. J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 302:384-91.
- Benito E & Garcia-Fernàndez J (2004) The origin of the neurotrophic system within chordates”. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 137/A: S6.
- Bayascas JR, Yuste VJ, Benito E, Garcia-Fernandez J & Comella JX. (2002) Isolation of AmphiCASP-3/7, an ancestral caspase from amphioxus (Branchiostoma floridae). Evolutionary considerations for vertebrate caspases. Cell Death Differ. 9:1078-89.

Senior Research Associate

Contact Details

T19 or T10 Lab
01223 (7)63895 or (3)36663 or (7)65408
Accepting applications for PhD students.