Mark Q. Martindale, Ph.D.

mark low resDirector of the Whitney Laboratory, Professor of Biology

Dr. Martindale obtained a B.A. in natural sciences at New College of the University of South Florida and earned his Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Texas at Austin. After spending 9 years on the faculty at the University of Chicago, Dr. Martindale was recruited the University of Hawaii and ultimately assumed the Directorship of the Kewalo Marine Lab in Kaka’ako. In 2010 Dr. Martindale and Dr. Max Telford initiated an open access journal called EvoDevo ( Dr. Martindale was named the Director of the Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience in December 2012.



Experimental Embryology and Evo-Devo

Addressing fundamental problems in biological pattern formation

martindale-mnemiopsis-pic-3-1024x5661-300x165We are interested in a broad range of problems associated with the cellular, molecular, and evolutionary basis of biological pattern formation. My lab utilizes a variety of molecular and “classical” techniques of microinjection, cell labeling, ablation, and transplantation, to address fundamental problems in developmental biology in a broad phylogenetic context. My lab is currently focused in three major areas. The first area of interest is to understand the evolution of biological novelties and the increase in biological “complexity”. These include the molecular origins of presumably rare evolutionary events such as the formation of the “middle” germ layer (mesoderm), the evolution of elements of the nervous system in the Metazoa, and the evolution of unique cell types (cnidocytes, colloblasts, sensory cells, etc.). Many of these studies utilize cnidarians (the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis) and ctenophores (the lobate Mnemiopsis leidyi), both of whose genomes have been sequenced. We continue to develop functional techniques in these systems as well as identify new models to uncover conserved and novel molecular mechanisms underlying cell type diversification.


mnemiopsis_first_cleavageThe second area of interest is to understand the role of the early cleavage program in the segregation of developmental potential. These studies are focused on, but not limited to, a wide variety of animals in the clade Spiralia (a.k.a. “Lophotrochozoa”) which share a mode of embryogenesis known as spiral cleavage (e.g., molluscs, annelids, nemerteans, sipunculids, echiurans, and polyclad flatworms). Of particular interest are changes in the fate maps between lineally identified blastomeres and the significance of naturally evolved variations in the spiral cleavage program, such as modifications associated with the abandonment of larval development in order to develop directly to a miniature adult form (i.e., direct development). We consistently use intracellular cell lineage labeling and cell ablation techniques in a wide variety of species for many of these experiments.

The third area of focus is to understand the relationship between development and regeneration in a variety of marine invertebrates. Does regeneration merely recapitulate the product of ontogeny? Is cell division necessary? Do cells have “memory”? Are there only a small subset of “stem” cells generated during development that can direct regenerative events? Is regeneration an ancient property of metazoans? Or has been “invented” many times in different animal lineages? There are many species whose embryos/larvae cannot replace missing parts, but their adult forms can. How is the ability to regenerate turned on in these adult animals? Most marine metazoans have a high capacity to regenerate and this biological diversity thus provides powerful new opportunities for understanding regenerative biology.

Martindale Lab in the News

Popular Science
A heartless sea creature could help us figure out why humans can’t regenerate limbs

University of Florida News
Does a Tiny Sea Creature Hold the Key to Heart Regeneration?