Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon
A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Wednesday, 4 October 2023
Academic background
Health Sciences, Sciences
Host campus
Dr Megan Wilson


Multicellular animals capable of varying degrees of regeneration are distributed widely throughout most metazoan phyla. In its most dramatic form, whole-body regeneration (WBR), an entire adult organism regenerates from only a small number of somatic cells. Regeneration ability appears to inversely correlate with body and tissue complexity; consequently, adult stem cells in human organs can act to repair damage but have a limited ability to fully restore structure and function. However, a striking exception to this relationship is the invertebrate colonial sea squirt Botrylloides leachi. Tunicates, such as B. leachi, possess a chordate body plan and are considered the closest phylogenetic relative of vertebrates. Botryllid colonies consist of adults (zooids) sharing a common vascular system embedded in a gelatinous matrix (tunic). Minute fragments of this vasculature containing only a few hundred cells are capable of regenerating a whole functional adult organism within 8 days. Why is it that in B. leachi, a stem cell population can restore an entire adult body plan (including the germ line), but adult stem cells in more complex animals can merely repair it? This project will involve using transcriptomics, siRNA and gene expression analyses.

Zondag LE, Rutherford K., Gemmell N. and Wilson MJ. (2016) Uncovering the pathways underlying whole body regeneration in a chordate model, Botrylloides leachi using de novo transcriptome analysis. BMC Genomics, DOI: 10.1186/s12864-016-2435-6.
Blanchoud S. , Zondag L, Lamare M. D and Wilson MJ. 2017. Hematological analysis of the ascidian Botrylloides leachii (Savigny, 1816) during whole-body regeneration. Biological Bulletin, in press.
Blanchoud S. , Rutherfrod K, Zondag L, Gemmell N and Wilson MJ. 2017 De novo draft assemly of the Botrylloides leachii genome provides further insight into tunicate evolution

For further information on our research -

Applications close Midnight, Wednesday 4 October 2017 NZDT (UTC+13)

For suitably qualified students, PhD scholarships may be available.

For scholarship and application details please visit the Department of Anatomy's website at Applications will only be accepted by email to:

Specific enquiries about the project can be directed to the contact below.


Dr Megan Wilson

Useful information

Similar research opportunities

Back to top