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Research Fellows Directory

Maximilian Telford

Dr Maximilian Telford

Research Fellow


University College London

Research summary

My lab is currently focussed on projects aimed at using information from comparisons of genes/genomes and embryology across distantly related animal groups to understand the process of evolution.

The first two projects involve sequencing the complete genomes of different animal species belonging to different phyla (that is groups of animals with very distinct body plans of which there about thirty including e.g. molluscs, annelid worms, arthropods or chordates).

We analysing the genomes of the Xenacoelomorph flatworms - simple worms, previously allied to Platyhelminthes (true flatworms). My lab has shown these simple worms are nested within the complex deuterostome super phylum (chordates, starfish and acorn worms) and must therefore have lost many complex characteristics. We are trying to find the genomic correlates of this loss of complexity.

We are also working on the development of the larval stage of a polyclad (true) flatworm Maritigrella crozieri. We are asking whether this larval stage (i.e. a stage in the life cycle that is very different to the adult one as a caterpillar is to a butterfly) is descended from the same ancestral larva as the larva of annelids and molluscs or whether it represents an independent evolution of this ‘biphasic’ lifecycle.

To help our research we have built a new type of microscope called a Selective Plane Illumination Microscope (SPIM) which permits us to follow the development of our flatworm larva with high resolution and low photo-toxicity.

We have a new project to develop a new way of tracking cells as they divide and move during the process of embryo development from a single cell to an adult. This should be applicable to many interesting problems in developmental biology and elsewhere.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Comparative genomics and the evolution of the Metazoa.

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Aug 2011 - Jul 2016

Value: £37,500