Swalla, Billie

Faculty Profile

First Name: 
Last Name: 
[field_fname-formatted] [field_lname-formatted]
Primary Institution: 
UW - Friday Harbor Labs
Mail/Box #: 


Office Location: 

238 Kincaid Hall

Office Phone: 
(206) 616-0764
Alternate Phone: 
(206) 616-9367

Research Summary: 

My lab's goal is to understand the evolution of the chordate body plan, a complex problem that requires interdisciplinary research. As vertebrates, we are chordates, but there are also several groups of invertebrate chordates that we study for clues to our evolution. We combine methods and approaches in phylogenetics, development, ecology and evolution to study the evolution of the chordate body plan from a deuterostome ancestor.

We work on two very different systems in the lab, one that utilizes two very closely related ascidian species, one with tailed tadpole larvae and one with tailless larvae. We have transcriptomes and genome sequences from these two Molgulid species and are looking at what molecular changes underlie the morphological evolution of the larval body plan.

We are also studying hemichordates, as they appear to be the closest extant animal to what we believe was the ancestral deuterostome. Hemichordates are also cool because they can completely regenerate their anterior proboscis, heart, kidney, and neural tube after being cut in half. We are studying regeneration of the central nervous system in ptychderid hemichordates.  We currently believe that the deuterostome ancestor was a burrowing worm, with gill slits and a cartilaginous skeleton.

Short Research Description: 
Evolution and Development of the Chordates
Areas of Interest: 
Developmental Biology, Stem Cells & Aging
Genetics, Genomics & Evolution
<p> Developmental Biology, Molecular Genetic, Gene Structure, Gene Families, Developmental Genetics, Embryogenesis, Evolution, Biology, Ascidian Development, Deuterostome Phylogeny, Development and Evolution, Embryonic Development, Maternal Determinants</p>

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