From the American to the European amphioxus: towards experimental Evo-Devo at the origin of chordates
Open Access | Review | Published: 1 November 2009
Jordi Garcia-Fernàndez*, Senda Jiménez-Delgado, Juan Pascual-Anaya, Ignacio Maeso, Manuel Irimia, Carolina Minguillón, Èlia Benito-Gutiérrez, Josep Gardenyes, Stéphanie Bertrand and Salvatore D’Aniello
Departament de Genètica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
Pallid anchovy fillet, friendly filtering, peacefully laying and little lancelet are some of the nicknames and adjectives the cephalochordate amphioxus has received throughout the last two centuries. Traditionally regarded as the living representative of the last ancestor of vertebrates, amphioxus has recently been promoted to the privileged position of being the most ancient chordate. The preliminary analysis of its prototypical genome is nearly completed, and its hidden secrets towards the understanding of the primitive chordate and deuterostome genomes will soon see the light. Amphioxus embryonic development and body plan have remained in evolutionary stasis since the cephalochordate lineage split from the chordate ancestor about 500 million years ago. In contrast, amphioxus research is far from being at a standstill; in Europe, thanks to the international cooperation and the Banyuls Oceanographic Station, amphioxus embryos are obtained on demand during the spawning season. We summarise here our progress towards the dream of the experimental manipulation of the amphioxus embryo, to enter the era of Experimental Evo-Devo.