Evolution and Development of
dental and skin appendage Diversity
X-Ray MicroCT Catshark hatchling head - Credit: Kyle Martin
We study the development of dental diversity across a range of vertebrates. Our lab questions how varieties of teeth are patterned and modified across species, how they form, and how they are replaced for continued production, specifically in fishes. Fishes account for more than half of all extant vertebrates and in addition have an immense diversity of dental form. The models that we study vary vastly from initial dental patterning and tooth number, to the capacity for dental regeneration with a diverse array of tooth replacement modes. This comparative context provides a framework in which to understand the complexities of dental diversity at the genetic level.
Our broad research focus is the genetic basis of developmental mechanisms that regulate vertebrate diversity and evolution. By coupling evolutionary and developmental genetic disciplines with more translational biosciences we aim to break down the complexities of morphological development, diversity and regeneration of the dentition and the dermal skeleton. The recent advances in the field of evolution and development have transformed our appreciation for the implications that developmental and genetic modification have on a host of biological disciplines.
We study the relationship between evolution, development and regeneration in a range of vertebrate structures, including teeth, skin appendages and sensory structures. The work in the Fraser Lab is centered on the study of a selection of intriguing fish models of evolutionary developmental biology (EvoDevo), including pufferfish, cichlids and sharks. Some of our most recent projects have focused on tooth regeneration and we have discovered stem cell niches associated with the continuously regenerative dentition of sharks, and the tooth-to-beak transition that occurs during pufferfish development. Our lab is interested in how vertebrates make, shape and regenerate complex morphologies. We have also recently discovered that shark skin teeth (denticles) develop via a highly conserved Turing-like patterning mechanism; a developmental process shared with bird feather and mammalian hair development.