Functional evolution and development of novel feeding apparatus in fishes

Alexandre Thiery


Start Year: 2014, 1st cohort

Host University: The University of Sheffield

Department: Animal and Plant Sciences

Supervisors: Dr. Gareth Fraser; Dr. Nathan Jeffery; 

Project CASE partner collaborator: Dr. Zerina Johanson 


Alex Thiery

Academic profile

Education: MBiolSci, Biology, University of Sheffield, UK, 2010-2014

Skills and relevant qualifications: 

Molecular biology;
In-situ hybridisation;
Histological staining;
Plasmid DNA purification;
Cell tracking.

ACCE PhD Research topic

Functional evolution and development of novel feeding apparatus in fishes

The teeth of fishes and the integrated jaw apparatus are examples of extreme evolutionary modification that have responded to functional and adaptive shifts within the wider community. This novel project aims to identify shifts in biomechanical pressures on adult jaw and tooth type that are linked to changes in the development of the feeding system. Our integrative project surrounds the core question of how development contributes to novel evolutionary changes in trophic adaptation. This project will link biomechanical adaptation of morphology to novel developmental modifications of the jaw apparatus in fishes to ask whether having a novel dentition (e.g. beak-like dentition in pufferfishes and parrotfishes) offers an adaptive advantage compared to more standard yet highly efficient dentitions e.g. Piranha. This project will utilise advanced techniques, including biomechanical computer simulations of hard-tissues built from enhanced microCT data. We will use nano-indentation analyses to observe changes of material properties in comparative groups of fishes linked to re-specification of conserved developmental genes in species with novel tooth phenotypes. The candidate will utilise developmental techniques (gene expression and manipulation) to understand how the genetic basis of tooth and jaw development and continuous tooth regeneration impact the evolution and biomechanical function of fish feeding systems.