SICB Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (DEDB)

DEDB Researchers Database Entry

Tamara Franz-Odendaal

The development and evolution of ocular skeletons
My broad interest is in comparative vertebrate craniofacial development and evolution - currently I have focused my research on the eye and its associated skeleton. Vertebrate eye development is complex involving a series of inductive interactions. During ontogeny the optic cup is formed prior to development of the surrounding skeletal elements. The developing eye moulds an orbit of the appropriate size and thus a close relationship between the eye and skeleton exists during development. Within the eye, skeletal elements (scleral ossicles, scleral cartilage) may be present.

My research is currently focussed on trying to understand the development (induction and patterning) and growth of these elements across different vertebrate groups. I include the study of fossil vertebrates in order to understand how the relationship between these two ocular skeletal elements has changed during the course of evolution and also whether these elements are homologous across vertebrate groups. Currently I am using molecular techniques (RT-PCR, in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry), experimental embryology and microscopy (light, confocal, electron) as tools in my research program. I primarily work on chicken, zebrafish and Mexican tetra as model organisms. Shown above left is an alizarin red stained chick embryo showing scleral ossicles surrounding the eye; on right is a condensation of presumptive (chick) scleral ossicle grown in culture and labelled with a fluorescent marker.