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Department of Zoology



I graduated in Biology at the University of Pavia with a thesis on the cytochemical changes in the central nervous system of the garden snail during hibernation. I then obtained a Master Degree in Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Milan. There I worked with Professor Roberta Pennati to characterize nervous system development of the crinoid echinoderm Antedon mediterranea, putting the results in a comparative framework to understand the evolution of echinoderm and deuterostome nervous system. I am now a PhD student in the Benito-Gutiérrez lab, funded by the Whitten PhD Studentship in Marine Biology, working on nervous system development of the cephalochordate amphioxus, an ideal model to study the origin and evolution of the chordate body plan.



From the appearance of the first neuron near the base of the animal phylogenetic tree a variety of nervous system organizations have evolved in different lineages, from simple nerve nets to complex brains. I am interested in understanding how this diversity originated and how nervous systems changed from one form to the other. To answer these questions, I aim at reconstructing the features of the common ancestors of particular groups by comparing anatomy and development of their extant descendants. In particular, by analyzing gene regulatory networks controlling the formation of the nervous system in all the lineages of a particular taxon similarities and differences can be drawn to hypothesize ancestral features as well as lineage specific modifications.

PhD Student

Contact Details

T10 and T25
01223 (3)36663