Skeletal Research

is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (MCSA-ITN) with the primary research aim to create an innovative expertise combining research in skeletal biology of aquaculture fish species with that in biomedical models and humans. In total, 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) will be appointed by the BioMedAqu consortium for 36 months each.

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Two PhD candidates for the UGent lab have been selected. Applications  for  ESR11 and ESR 12 at UGent are closed.  Other partners in the BioMedAqu consortium may still have open positions.


Research Group Evolutionary Developmental Biology
at Ghent University

Email Contacts:
Ann Huysseune, PI (
P. Eckhard Witten, PI (
Mieke Soenens, Lab Management (
Hilde Van Wynsberge, Office Manage. (
Miranda Naert, Course Management (
Daria Larionova, PhD (
Ana Manuela de Azevedo, PhD (
Arianna Martini, cand. PhD (
Silvia Cotti, cand. PhD (
Lucia Drabikova, cand. PhD (
Xuemei Xiong, BSc (

Associated Scientists
Joana Teixeira Rosa, PhD (
Veronika Oralova, PhD (
Herve Lesot, PhD (


Research highlights

Osterix/SP knockout in Medaka does not prevent  the formation of vertebral body  anlagen (chordacentra).  Yu T, Graf M, Renn J, Schartl M, Larionova D, Huysseune A, Witten PE, Winkler C (2017) A vertebrate specific and essential role for sp7/osterix in osteogenesis revealed by gene knock-out in the teleost medaka. Development, 144, 265-271

No evidence that epethelial stem cells are involved in medaka tooth formation. Tan WH,  Witten PE,  Winkler C,  Au DTW,  Huysseune A (2017) Telomerase expression in medaka (Oryzias melastigma) pharyngeal teeth. Journal of Dental Research, 96(6) 678 –684

Severe phosphrous deficiency in Atlatic salmon does not disrupt  bone  formation. Witten PE, Owen MAG, Fontanillas R, Soenens M, McGurk C, Obach A (2016) Primary phosphorous-deficiency in juvenile Atlantic salmon: the uncoupling of bone formation and mineralisation. Journal of Fish Biology 88: 690-708

The salmonid vertebral column has six distinct regions, one is a transitional region between abominal and caudal vertbral bodies. De Clercq A, Perrott MR, Davie PS, Preece MA, Wybourne B, Ruff N, Huysseune A, Witten PE (2017) Vertebral column regionalisation in Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha. Journal of Anatomy 231:500—514


Development, Plasticity and Remodeling of Skeletal Tissues

Our research focuses on development, plasticity, and remodeling of skeletal tissues; in particular bone, cartilage and teeth of teleost fish. Teleost fish are by far the largest and most diverse group of vertebrates on the planet. Processes are analyzed in a comparative developmental and evolutionary context. For anyone interested in evolution and development, the skeleton is the ideal organ system to study. Skeletal tissues are preserved in the fossil record and they can be analyzed in extant organisms. The group intensely studies the mechanisms underlying continuous tooth replacement in teleosts, we participate in biomedical research and we use our knowledge about fish skeletal tissues to prevent skeletal malformations in farmed fish.

The group has collaborations  with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hon Kong, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, USA and  the UK.

We organize the intentional conference “Interdisciplinary Approaches in Fish Skeletal Biology (,  follow the links at the tab “IAFSB conference”