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The main experimental model of the team is the marine annelid worm Platynereis dumerilii, an emerging developmental biology model that has proven to be very useful for large-scale evolutionary developmental comparisons (Raible and Tessmar-Raible, 2014; Williams and Jékely, 2016). Platynereis belongs to the lophotrochozoan branch of the bilaterian tree, crucially complementing the most popular developmental biology model species which are either deuterostomes (mainly vertebrates) or ecdysozoans (nematodes and insects). Several lines of data suggested that Platynereis belongs to a slow-evolving lineage and therefore may have retained genomic, developmental and morphological features thought to be ancestral to bilaterians. This includes an indirect development (passing through a larval stage), the metameric organization of the body with paired appendages, and the presence of a complex and centralized nervous system and a closed circulatory system.

Life Cycle of Platynereis dumerilii
Life Cycle of Platynereis dumerilii, artwork by Adrien Demilly (modified from Hauenschild, 1974; Fischer et al., 2010).

Platynereis worms do also continuously grow during most of their life (a process called posterior elongation) and possess important regeneration abilities, two features that are widespread in animals, but not found in classical developmental biology models. Finally, Platynereis is easily cultured in the lab and several tools allowing to study its development, including transgenesis, functional analyses and live-imaging, have been developed these last years (reviewed in Zantke et al., 2014).

More on Platynereis and some Platynereis ressources:
The Platynereis Homepage, A. Dorresteijn
Platynereis Resource, EMBL
Platynereis dumerilii Transcriptome Assembly, Jékely Lab
PdumBase, S. Q. Schneider