Dr. Billie J. Swalla
We are studying how different animal body plans have evolved on the earth. We use a combination of evolutionary and developmental studies to investigate how a single fertilized egg develops a unique morphology, depending on the spatial and temporal expression of developmental genes. The main model systems used in my lab are ascidians and hemichordates, as our major research interest is the evolution of the chordates. One part of my lab works on the molecular phylogeny of the deuterostomes in a effort to understand the phylogenetic relationships of the different deuterostome groups. We study the phylogeny of the tunicates and hemichordates. We are interested in the relationships of species within each phyla and how the phyla are related to each other. We are studying how coloniality has evolved several times in the deuterostomes, by studying the development of colonial ascidians and hemichordates (pterobranchs). One of my students is studying the development and potential of germ cells in colonial ascidians. Other students work on the developmental mechanisms underlying development and metamorphosis. We use a variety of research tools and approaches in an effort to understand the evolution of animal body plans, particularly the chordate body plan.
University of Washington
Web Page: https://faculty.washington.edu/bjswalla/