Centers & Labs

Chief Scientist Laboratories

Evolutionary Morphology Laboratory

Chief Scientist: Shigeru Kuratani (Ph.D.)
Shigeru  Kuratani(Ph.D.)

Evolution can be viewed as series of changes introduced to developmental programs of organisms. The ultimate goal of our research project is to reconstruct the mechanical background of development behind evolutionary novelties in vertebrates, such as jaws and turtle crapace, by comparing developmental processes and patterns between different animal species to identify the changed portion of development, by constructing phenocopies to modify a part of developmental programs of model animals, and by integrating the experimental data with fossil data, phylogenetic trees based on molecular data, and variety of genomes in animals.

Main Research Field

Plant & Animal Science

Related Research Fields

Biology & Biochemistry / Molecular Biology & Genetics

Research Subjects

  • Origin and evolution of the vertebrate head
  • Developmental basis for the evolution of the turtle shell
  • Evolutionary developmental study for the vertebrate skeletomuscular system

Selected Publications

  1. Sugahara, F., Pascual-Anaya, J., Oisi, Y., Kuraku, S., Aota, S., Adachi, N., Takagi, W., Hirai, T., Sato, N., Murakami, Y., and Kuratani, S.:
    “Evidence from cyclostomes for complex regionalization of the ancestral vertebrate brain.”
    Nature (2016, in press).
  2. Kitazawa, T., Takechi, M., Hirasawa, T., Hirai, T., Narboux-Nême, N., Kume, H., Oikawa, S., Maeda, K., Miyagawa-Tomita, S., Kurihara, Y., Hitomi, J., Levi, G., Kuratani, S., and Hiroki Kurihara, H.:
    “Developmental genetic bases behind the independent origin of the tympanic membrane in mammals and diapsids.”
    Nat. Commun. 6, 6853 (2015).
  3. Wang, Z.*, Pascual-Anaya, J.*, Zadissa, A., Li, W., Niimura, Y., Huang, Z., Li, C., White, S., Xiong, Z., Fang, D., Wang, B., Ming, Y., Chen, Y., Zheng, Y., Kuraku, S., Pignatelli, M., Herrero, J., Nozawa, M., Juan Wang, J., Zhang, H., Yu, L., Shigenobu, S., Wang, J., Liu, J., Flicek, P., Searle, S., Wang, J., Kuratani, S., Yin, Y., Aken, B., Zhang, G., Irie, N.:
    “Development and evolution of turtle-specific body plan assessed by genome-wide analyses.”
    Nat. Genet. 45, 701-706 (2013).
  4. Hirasawa, T., Nagashima, H., and Kuratani, S.:
    “The endoskeletal origin of the turtle carapace.”
    Nat. Commun. 4, 2107 (2013).
  5. Oisi, Y., Ota, K. G., Kuraku, S., Fujimoto, S. and Kuratani, S.:
    “Craniofacial development of hagfishes and the evolution of vertebrates.”
    Nature 493, 175-180 (2013).
  6. Ota, K. G., Fujimoto, S., Oisi, Y., and Kuratani, S.:
    “Identification of vertebra-like elements and their possible differentiation from sclerotomes in the hagfish.”
    Nat. Commun. 2, 373 (2011).
  7. Irie, N., and Kuratani, S.:
    “Comparative transcriptome analysis detects vertebrate phylotypic stage during organogenesis.”
    Nat. Commun. 2, 248 (2011).
  8. Nagashima, H., Sugahara, F., Takechi, M., Ericsson, R., Kawashima-Ohya, Y., Narita, Y., and Kuratani, S.:
    “Evolution of the turtle body plan by the folding and creation of new muscle connections.”
    Science 325, 193-196 (2009).
  9. Ota, K. G., Kuraku, S., and Kuratani, S.:
    “Hagfish embryology with reference to the evolution of the neural crest.”
    Nature 446, 672-675 (2007).
  10. Shigetani, Y., Sugahara, F., Kawakami, Y., Murakami, Y., Hirano, S., and Kuratani, S.:
    “Heterotopic shift of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions for vertebrate jaw evolution.”
    Science 296, 1316-1319 (2002).

Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Shigeru Kuratani
Chief Scientist

Core Members

Takayuki Onai
Research Scientist
Rie Kusakabe
Research Scientist
Tatsuya Hirasawa
Research Scientist
Juan Pascual Anaya
Research Scientist
Noritaka Adachi
Postdoctoral Researcher
Wataru Takagi
Visiting Researcher
Shinnosuke Higuchi
Student Trainee
Tamami Hirai
Technical Staff I
Iori Sato
Technical Staff I
Fumiaki Sugahara
Visiting Scientist
Naoki Irie
Visiting Scientist
Tomoko Oyanagi

Contact information

2-2-3 Minatojima-minamimachi, Chuo-ku
Kobe, Hyogo
650-0047 Japan

Email: saizo [at]

Related links

Recent research results

February 19, 2016: Press Release
Jawless fish brains more similar to ours than previously thought
April 22, 2015: Press Release
Look mom, no eardrums!


Annual research report

Further information