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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Wednesday, 1 April 2026
Academic background
Health Sciences, Sciences
Host campus
Master's, PhD, Honours
Associate Professor Megan Wilson


Extended embryo retention (EER) has long been recognised as pivotal in the transition from oviparity (egg-laying) to viviparity (live-bearing). Ascidians, invertebrate chordates closely related to vertebrates, provide a unique opportunity to study the evolution of viviparity. Comparative studies with ascidians reveal critical insights into viviparity, highlighting similarities with placental animals, such as reduced egg count, elongated gestation, and complex extraembryonic membranes. Hypsistozoa fasmeriana is a marine colonial ascidian, endemic to Aotearoa New Zealand, and demonstrates true viviparity, nurturing its offspring for approximately 5.5 months. Despite starting from a small, low-yolk egg, the resulting tadpole grows significantly during this period.

This project will identify those genes associated with nutrient transfer, hormone production, and embryonic development in ascidians critical for prolonged gestation and share functional similarities with genes involved in human placental development.


Contact name
Associate Professor Megan Wilson
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