Dr Dave Ferrier

Reader in Biology and Deputy Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute

SOI 1.10b
tel. 01334 463480


Research Overview. We aim to understand how the diversity of form in the animal kingdom evolved. The focus of our research is the connection between the evolution of animal genome organisation and development, with a particular concentration on the homeobox-containing genes. The Hox gene cluster is established as a corner-stone of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, but much about the evolution of its organisation and mode of operation remains unknown. Also the Hox cluster is not unique as a homeobox gene cluster controlling animal development, further clusters being the ParaHox and NK clusters, all of which evolved within larger arrays of homeobox genes (the Mega-cluster, Giga-cluster and Super-Hox cluster). We utilize a variety of organisms in our research (including amphioxus, sea squirts, polychaetes and priapulids), chosen from key points in the phylogeny of the animals to enable reconstruction of the ancestral conditions at major nodes in the animal kingdom; the origin of bilaterians, protostomes, deuterostomes, chordates and vertebrates, as well as the origin of the entire animal kingdom. Knowledge of such ancestors is vital in understanding subsequent diversification.



Garstang, MG & Ferrier, DEK 2018, 'Amphioxus SYCP1: a case of retrogene replacement and co-option of regulatory elements adjacent to the ParaHox cluster' Development Genes and Evolution, vol First Online. DOI: 10.1007/s00427-017-0600-9
MacKintosh, C & Ferrier, DEK 2017, 'Recent advances in understanding the roles of whole genome duplications in evolution' F1000Research, vol 2017, no. 6, 1623. DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.11792.1
Ferrier, DEK 2016, 'The origin of the Hox/ParaHox genes, the Ghost Locus hypothesis and the complexity of the first animal' Briefings in Functional Genomics, vol 15, no. 5, pp. 333-341. DOI: 10.1093/bfgp/elv056
Ferrier, DEK 2016, 'Evolution of homeobox gene clusters in animals: the Giga-cluster and primary versus secondary clustering' Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, vol 4, 36. DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2016.00036
Garstang, MG, Osborne, P & Ferrier, DEK 2016, 'TCF/Lef regulates the Gsx ParaHox gene in central nervous system development in chordates' BMC Evolutionary Biology, vol 16, 57. DOI: 10.1186/s12862-016-0614-3
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