A team of researchers from University College London (Fraser Simpson and Johannes Girstmair) and Cambridge University (Kate Rawlinson) has returned to KML to continue their research on the development of the marine tiger flatworm, Maritigrella crozieri.
Flatworms are among the most diverse, and biomedically significant, invertebrate phyla. They include free-living species (best known for their regeneration abilities) and parasitic groups (such as tapeworms and flukes), some of which cause disease in humans.
Early development of Maritigrella embryos, 2-16 cell stages (scale = 50 microns) (photos by Francois Lapraz).
Investigating how flatworms develop tissues and organs from
a fertilized egg during embryonic development is important for our understanding of their biology, and may shed light on ways to control species that negatively impact our health and interests. However, because flatworms lay their eggs in protective egg capsules it is hard to study their development. These researchers have developed methods to rear Maritigrella embryos outside of their egg capsules and are using current molecular and imaging techniques to understand how embryonic cells give rise to adult body structures.
During this visit to KML the team is collecting sexually mature worms from clumps of Ecteinascidia by snorkeling and kayaking. These worms are then brought back to the lab, where their eggs and larval stages are preserved for future analysis.