Methods for generating year-round access to amphioxus in the laboratory

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 26;8(8):e71599. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071599. eCollection 2013.


Cephalochordates, commonly known as amphioxus, are key to understanding vertebrate origins. However, laboratory work suffers from limited access to adults and embryonic material. Here we report the design and experimental validation of an inland marine facility that allows establishing stable amphioxus colonies in the laboratory and obtaining embryos at any time of day and over almost the entire year, far exceeding natural conditions. This is achieved by mimicking the natural benthic environment, natural day- and moon- light, natural substrate and by providing a strictly controlled and seasonally fluctuating temperature regimen. Moreover, supplemented algae diets allow animals to refill their gonads in consecutive years. Spontaneous spawning, a major problem in previous setups, no longer occurs in our facility; instead, all breeding is induced and fertilization occurs fully in vitro. Our system makes amphioxus a standard laboratory animal model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Breeding*
  • Ecosystem
  • Environment, Controlled
  • Facility Design and Construction
  • Female
  • Housing, Animal
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lancelets / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Animal*
  • Salinity
  • Water


  • Water

Grants and funding

The authors are grateful for financial support to E.B.G. in the course of this investigation from La Generalitat de Catalunya, Beatriu de Pinós Program (2006BP-A10108), from EMBL, Interdisciplinary Postdocs Program (EIPOD) and from the European Community, ASSEMBLE grant agreement number 227799. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.