Group leader: Sylvie Rétaux

Development & Evolution of the Forebrain

In brief

The vertebrate forebrain has undergone an extraordinary diversification in the course of evolution. For instance, could anyone see that the mammalian cerebral cortex, with its well-known organization into 6 layers, and the so-called everted pallium of teleost fishes, are homologous brain regions? Using an evolutionary developmental approach, we aim to understand the genetic and cellular mechanisms which govern the unity (homology) and the differences (diversification) present in the forebrains of various vertebrates. And we study the consequences of the observed developmental variations in terms of adaptive behaviors. To this end, we use an original animal model: the blind cavefish Astyanax mexicanus, which we consider as a “natural mutant”. During its adaptation to life in total and permanent darkness, this fish lost its eyes (and its pigmentation).