Faculty Profiles

John Finnerty

John R. Finnerty

Associate Professor of Biology

PhD, University of Chicago, 1994
Areas of interest: evolution of development, developmental genetics, phylogenetics, evolutionary genomics, invertebrate zoology; coral conservation.
(617) 353-6984

Current Research

My laboratory tackles fundamental questions in biodiversity using an interdisciplinary approach that combines genomics, genetics, molecular biology, developmental biology, organismal biology, and ecology. Our primary study organisms are coastal marine invertebrates—sea anemones, corals, and jellyfishes. In particular, we have played a central role in developing the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, into an important new model system for genomics and developmental biology. By comparing “Stella” to “higher animals,” we are investigating the early evolution of animal genomes and animal body plans. By comparing the free-living Nematostella to the closely-related parasitic anemone, Edwardsiella lineata, we are investigating the origin of parasitism. By comparing the performance of different strains of Nematostella under exposure to various environmental stressors using genomic and developmental assays, we are investigating the basis of this animal’s remarkably wide stress tolerances. We are also extending these stress-studies to corals, in an attempt to understand how corals respond to various environmental stressors, including those associated with global climate change.


Courses Taught

Selected Publications

  • Traylor-Knowles N, Hansen U, Dubuc TQ, Martindale MQ, Kaufman L, Finnerty JR (2010) The evolutionary diversification of LSF and Grainyhead transcription factors preceded the radiation of basal animal lineages. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 10: 101.
  • Mazza ME, Pang K, Reitzel AM, Martindale MQ, Finnerty JR (2010) A conserved cluster of three PRD-class homeobox genes (homeobrain, rx, and orthopedia) in the Cnidaria and Protostomia. EvoDevo. 1: 3.
  • Sullivan JC, Wolesnksi FS, Reitzel AM, French CE, Traylor-Knowles N, Gilmore TD, Finnerty JR (2009) Two alleles of NF-κB in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis are widely dispersed in nature and encode proteins with distinct activities. PLoS ONE. 4(10): e7311.
  • Putnam NH, Srivastava M, Hellsten U, Dirks B, Chapman J, Salamov A, Terry A, Shapiro H, Lindquist E, Kapitonov VV, Jurka J, Genikhovich G, Grigoriev I, JGI Sequencing Team, Steele RE, Finnerty JR, Technau U, Martindale MQ, Rokhsar DS. (2007). Sea anemone genome reveals the gene repertoire and genomic organization of the eumetazoan ancestor. Science 317, 86-94
  • Reitzel AM, Sullivan JC, Brown BK, Chin DW, Cira EK, Edquist SK, Genco BM, Joseph OC, Kaufman CA, Kovitvongsa K, Muñoz MM, Negri TL, Taffel JR, Zuehlke RT, Finnerty JR. (2007). Ecological and developmental dynamics of a host-parasite system involving a sea anemone and two ctenophores. J. Parasitology 93, 1392-1402
  • Ryan JF, Mazza ME, Pang K, Matus DQ, Baxevanis A, Martindale MQ, Finnerty JR. (2007). Pre-bilaterian origins of the Hox cluster and the Hox code: Evidence from the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis. PLoS ONE 2(1), e153
  • Finnerty JR, Pang P, Burton K, Paulson D, Martindale MQ. (2004). Homology of Bilateral Symmetry in Cnidaria and Bilateria: Axial expression of Hox genes and Dpp in the sea anemone Nematostella. Science. 304, 1335-1337.
  • Martindale MQ, Pang K, Finnerty JR.  (2004). Investigating the origins of triploblasty: “Mesodermal” gene expression in a diploblastic animal, the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis (phylum, Cnidaria; Class Anthozoa). Development. 131, 2463-2474.