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Faculty and Research

Faculty Member

David McCauley

David McCauley

Associate Professor, Biology Richards Hall 305 & 317 405-325-9038 Ph.D., Zoology - University of Texas, 1997


The focus of my lab is on the evolution of vertebrate novelties, particularly related to neural crest cells. Neural crest cells are unique to vertebrates and are thought to have been a key innovation in the evolution of vertebrates from an ancestor lacking this cell type. We use a combination of models to investigate the role of gene duplication and divergence in the origin of novel vertebrate traits. Much of our work centers on the development in a basal vertebrate, the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus. This primitively jawless fish is a valuable model in which to study the origin and evolution of vertebrate characters, including the neural crest. We combine a variety of cellular and molecular techniques, including dye labeling, gene perturbation, and gene expression studies, to determine how vertebrate complexity may be related to gene duplication in the early vertebrate ancestor, and how these gene duplications are related to evolution of the neural crest. We are also using the well-established zebrafish model to determine how duplicated genes retain ancestral function during development, and how duplication has also resulted in new functions specific to gnathostome vertebrates.

Selected Publications:

Yuan, T., York, J. R., and McCauley, D. W. (2020) Neural crest and placode roles in formation and patterning of cranial sensory ganglia in lamprey. Genesis 58: e23356. doi: 10.1002/dvg.23356.

York, J. R. and McCauley, D. W. (2020) Functional genetic analysis in a jawless vertebrate, the sea lamprey: insights into the developmental evolution of early vertebrates. Journal of Experimental Biology 223: jeb206433. doi:10.1242/jeb.206433.

York, J. R. and McCauley, D. W. (2020) The origin and evolution of vertebrate neural crest cells. Open Biology 10: 190285.

York, J. R., Thresher, R. E., and McCauley, D. W. (2020) Applying functional genomics to the study of lamprey development and sea lamprey population control. Journal of Great Lakes Research

York, J. R., Zehnder. K., Yuan, T., Lakiza, O., and McCauley, D. W. (2019) Evolution of Snail-mediated regulation of neural crest and placodes from an ancient role in bilaterian neurogenesis. Developmental Biology 453: 180-190.

Yuan, T., York, J. R., and McCauley, D. W. (2018) Gliogenesis in lampreys shares gene regulatory interactions with oligodendrocyte development in jawed vertebrates. Developmental Biology 441: 176-190. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2018.07.002.

York, J. R., Yuan, T., Lakiza, O., and McCauley, D. W. (2018) An ancestral role for Semaphorin3F-Neuropilin signalling in patterning neural crest within the new vertebrate head. Development 145(14) pii: dev164780. doi: 10.1242/dev.164780.

York, J. R., Yuan, T., Zehnder, K., and McCauley, D. W.. (2017) Lamprey neural crest migration is Snail-dependent and occurs without a differential shift in cadherin expression. Developmental Biology 428: 176-187.

Lee, E. M., Yuan, T., Nguyen, K., Medeiros, D. M., and McCauley, D. W. (2016) Functional constraints on SoxE proteins in neural crest development: the importance of differential expression for evolution of protein activity. Developmental Biology 418: 166-178.

McCauley, D. W., Docker, M. F., Whyard, S., and Li, W. (2015) Lampreys as diverse model organisms in the genomics era. BioScience 65(11): 1046-1056. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv139