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J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 2011 Jun 15;316(4):263-75. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.21397. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

Amphioxus spawning behavior in an artificial seawater facility.

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  • 1Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, CNRS UMR5242, INRA 1288, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Lyon, France.


Owing to its phylogenetic position at the base of the chordates, the cephalochordate amphioxus is an emerging model system carrying immense significance for understanding the evolution of vertebrate development. One important shortcoming of amphioxus as a model organism has been the unavailability of animal husbandry protocols to maintain amphioxus adults away from the field. Here, we present the first report of successful maintenance and spawning of Branchiostoma lanceolatum adults in a facility run on artificial seawater. B. lanceolatum has been chosen for this study because it is the only amphioxus species that can be induced to spawn. We provide a step-by-step guide for the assembly of such a facility and discuss the day-to-day operations required for successful animal husbandry of B. lanceolatum adults. This work also includes a detailed description of the B. lanceolatum spawning behavior in captivity. Our analysis shows that the induced spawning efficiency is not sex biased, but increases as the natural spawning season progresses. We find that a minor fraction of the animals undergo phases of spontaneous spawning in the tanks and that this behavior is not affected by the treatment used to induce spawning. Moreover, the induced spawning efficiency is not discernibly correlated with spontaneous spawning in the facility. Last, we describe a protocol for long-term cryopreservation of B. lanceolatum sperm. Taken together, this work represents an important step toward further establishing amphioxus as a laboratory animal making it more amenable to experimental research, and hence assists the coming of age of this emerging model.

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