Our lab is pioneering annual killifish as an alternative model for the study of teleost development. Annual killifish embryos have the extraordinary ability to enter diapause, a suspended state that allows survival during the dry season. During diapause, blastomeres disperse and adopt a random walk behavior, resulting in a loss of spatial information that other animals rely on to specify the embryonic axis. Despite this, cells eventually coordinate their migration trajectories and re-aggregate, subsequently forming embryonic axes (panel a).
We seek to understand how and why annual killifish use such a divergent strategy of axis formation? In the absence of maternal patterning, we are investigating how annual killifish reliably self-organize their axes. In addition, we are interested in studying the evolution of specialized cell types that may facilitate their adaptation to a seasonal aquatic environment.