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Matters of the heart: an exclusive UB research paper, cover article of the latest edition of ‘Nature’

Reconstruction of the history of sessile and pelagic lifestyles during the evolution of chordates proposed by Alfonso Ferrández-Roldán et al., 2021 in Nature 2

Barcelona, 17 November 2021. In this week's edition, the cover of Nature magazine highlights, with the suggestive headline "Matters of the heart", a basic research carried out exclusively by the Consolidated Research Group Evolution and Development (Evo-Devo) of the Genetics Section of the Faculty of Biology of the UB and our Biodiversity Research Institute of the UB1. The work unravels one of the still unsolved enigmas about the transition between free-living and sedentary lifestyles in ancestors of our phylum: the chordates.

The work of the @EvoDevoGenomeUB group proposes a new evolutionary scenario that helps to better understand the evolution of our phylum and to discover what the ancestor of the tunicates, the sister group of vertebrates, was like. Specifically, it reveals that massive gene losses that deconstructed the heart gene network facilitated the transition to a free pelagic lifestyle in appendicular tunicates from a sedentary ancestral form.

This basic research paper featured on the cover of Nature outlines a new evolutionary scenario to solve questions about the origin and evolution of appendicularians, their phylogenetic relationship with other tunicates and the common ancestor of vertebrates. "Our work reveals what the ancestor of tunicates was like, and opens up new questions such as how sessile life evolved in the ancestral tunicate from a free-living ancestor possibly similar to what we observe in vertebrates," says Cristian Cañestro.

Publishing an article in Nature, considered one of the most influential and prestigious scientific journals in the world, is a very desirable milestone for any researcher and for any university or research institution. The fact that, in addition, the work has been carried out entirely by a single research group is exceptional. And even more: that this basic research work has been highlighted on the cover of the journal makes it an unprecedented episode, which has certainly never happened before at the University of Barcelona, and on rare occasions in the country.

More information:

1 UB news link: https://www.ub.edu/web/ub/en/menu_eines/noticies/2021/11/018.html

2 Link to the story "behind the article" published on Nature's Ecology and Evolution community portal: https://ecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/deconstruction-of-cardiac-development-and-the-evolution- of-tunicate-life-styles