Prof Max Telford


Personal Profile

Name: Max Telford Email:
Title: Prof Tel: 0044 20 7679 2554
Department: Genetics, Evolution & Environment Fax: 0044 20 7679 7096
Position: Professor of Zoology Address: Dept of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, Darwin Building, Gower St, London, WC1E 6BT
Research Domain: Basic Life Sciences Web Page: Personal Web Page


Research Description

Understanding the evolution of the great diversity of animals is a major goal of biology. Research in my lab concentrates on developing an accurate tree of evolutionary relationships of the animal kingdom and on experiments to determine the genotypic changes involved in specific, well characterised morphological changes within the animals.

Biologists would like to understand how evolution has happened in an historical sense - which characteristics arose in which lineages, when they arose and hopefully even an adaptive explanation of why they arose. All of these questions depend absolutely on mapping the characters of interest onto an accurate phylogenetic tree of the animal kingdom and we are using a variety of molecular approaches to refine the animal tree.

We would also like to know how evolution works in a more general sense; we would like to go beyond the neo-Darwinian explanation of adaptation through selection on random mutations to discover exactly what kind of changes at the level of the genotype have given rise to the changes we see in phenotype. These effects of genotype on adult phenotype are mediated through the organisms program of development from egg to adult and these latter questions constitute the program of research now called evolutionary developmental biology. The second aim of the group is to undertake a programme of comparative developmental work in arthropods using modern molecular genetic methods.

Research Activities

Animal Evolutionary biology

molecular evolution & phylogenetics

Education Description

Course organiser for BIOL 1006 "Life on Earth"

Contrbute to BIOLC 3010 "Molecular Evolution"

Contribute to BIOL2004 "Fundamentals of Molecular Biology"

UCL Collaborators

Prof Jim Mallet; Prof Ziheng Yang; Dr Paola Oliveri

External Collaborators



    • Chipman AD, Ferrier DE, Brena C, Qu J, Hughes DS, Schröder R, Torres-Oliva M, Znassi N, Jiang H, Almeida FC, Alonso CR, Apostolou Z, Aqrawi P, Arthur W, Barna JC, Blankenburg KP, Brites D, Capella-Gutiérrez S, Coyle M, Dearden PK, Du Pasquier L, Duncan EJ, Ebert D, Eibner C, Erikson G, Evans PD, Extavour CG, Francisco L, Gabaldón T, Gillis WJ, Goodwin-Horn EA, Green JE, Griffiths-Jones S, Grimmelikhuijzen CJ, Gubbala S, Guigó R, Han Y, Hauser F, Havlak P, Hayden L, Helbing S, Holder M, Hui JH, Hunn JP, Hunnekuhl VS, Jackson L, Javaid M, Jhangiani SN, Jiggins FM, Jones TE, Kaiser TS, Kalra D, Kenny NJ, Korchina V, Kovar CL, Kraus FB, Lapraz F, Lee SL, Lv J, Mandapat C, Manning G, Mariotti M, Mata R, Mathew T, Neumann T, Newsham I, Ngo DN, Ninova M, Okwuonu G, Ongeri F, Palmer WJ, Patil S, Patraquim P, Pham C, Pu LL, Putman NH, Rabouille C, Ramos OM, Rhodes AC, Robertson HE, Robertson HM, Ronshaugen M, Rozas J, Saada N, Sánchez-Gracia A, Scherer SE, Schurko AM, Siggens KW, Simmons D, Stief A, Stolle E, Telford MJ, Tessmar-Raible K, Thornton R, van der Zee M, von Haeseler A, Williams JM, Willis JH, Wu Y, Zou X, Lawson D, Muzny DM, Worley KC, Gibbs RA, Akam M, Richards S (2014). The First Myriapod Genome Sequence Reveals Conservative Arthropod Gene Content and Genome Organisation in the Centipede Strigamia maritima.. PLoS Biol, 12(11), e1002005 - . doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002005
    • Telford MJ, Lowe CJ, Cameron CB, Ortega-Martinez O, Aronowicz J, Oliveri P, Copley RR (2014). Phylogenomic analysis of echinoderm class relationships supports Asterozoa.. Proc Biol Sci, 281(1786), - . doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0479


    • Telford MJ (2013). Mollusc evolution: seven shells on the sea shore.. Curr Biol, 23(21), R952 - R954. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.09.045
    • Lapraz F, Rawlinson KA, Girstmair J, Tomiczek BO, Berger J, Jékely G, Telford MJ, Egger B (2013). Put a tiger in your tank: the polyclad flatworm Maritigrella crozieri as a proposed model for evo-devo.. Evodevo, 4(1), 29 - . doi:10.1186/2041-9139-4-29
    • Nakano H, Lundin K, Bourlat SJ, Telford MJ, Funch P, Nyengaard JR, Obst M, Thorndyke MC (2013). Xenoturbella bocki exhibits direct development with similarities to Acoelomorpha.. Nat Commun, 4, 1537 - . doi:10.1038/ncomms2556
    • Telford MJ (2013). Evolution. The animal tree of life.. Science, 339(6121), 764 - 766. doi:10.1126/science.1234378
    • Telford MJ (2013). Field et Al. Redux.. Evodevo, 4(1), 5 - . doi:10.1186/2041-9139-4-5
    • Coulcher JF, Telford MJ (2013). Comparative gene expression supports the origin of the incisor and molar process from a single endite in the mandible of the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum.. Evodevo, 4(1), 1 - . doi:10.1186/2041-9139-4-1


    • Coulcher JF, Telford MJ (2012). Cap'n'collar differentiates the mandible from the maxilla in the beetle Tribolium castaneum.. Evodevo, 3(1), 25 - . doi:10.1186/2041-9139-3-25


    • Telford MJ, Budd GE (2011). Invertebrate evolution: bringing order to the molluscan chaos.. Curr Biol, 21(23), R964 - R966. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.10.029
    • Rota-Stabelli O, Campbell L, Brinkmann H, Edgecombe GD, Longhorn SJ, Peterson KJ, Pisani D, Philippe H, Telford MJ (2011). A congruent solution to arthropod phylogeny: phylogenomics, microRNAs and morphology support monophyletic Mandibulata.. Proc Biol Sci, 278(1703), 298 - 306. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0590
    • Philippe H, Brinkmann H, Copley RR, Moroz LL, Nakano H, Poustka AJ, Wallberg A, Peterson KJ, Telford MJ (2011). Acoelomorph flatworms are deuterostomes related to Xenoturbella.. Nature, 470(7333), 255 - 258. doi:10.1038/nature09676
    • Telford MJ, Copley RR (2011). Improving animal phylogenies with genomic data.. Trends Genet, 27(5), 186 - 195. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2011.02.003
    • Campbell LI, Rota-Stabelli O, Edgecombe GD, Marchioro T, Longhorn SJ, Telford MJ, Philippe H, Rebecchi L, Peterson KJ, Pisani D (2011). MicroRNAs and phylogenomics resolve the relationships of Tardigrada and suggest that velvet worms are the sister group of Arthropoda.. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 108(38), 15920 - 15924. doi:10.1073/pnas.1105499108


    • Abascal F, Zardoya R, Telford MJ (2010). TranslatorX: multiple alignment of nucleotide sequences guided by amino acid translations.. Nucleic Acids Res, 38(Web Server issue), W7 - 13. doi:10.1093/nar/gkq291
    • Martindale MQ, Telford MJ (2010). Welcome to open access publishing at EvoDevo: a macroevolutionary change in sharing data.. Evodevo, 1(1), 1 - . doi:10.1186/2041-9139-1-1
    • Rota-Stabelli O, Kayal E, Gleeson D, Daub J, Boore JL, Telford MJ, Pisani D, Blaxter M, Lavrov DV (2010). Ecdysozoan mitogenomics: evidence for a common origin of the legged invertebrates, the Panarthropoda.. Genome Biol Evol, 2, 425 - 440. doi:10.1093/gbe/evq030
    • Douris V, Telford MJ, Averof M (2010). Evidence for multiple independent origins of trans-splicing in Metazoa.. Mol Biol Evol, 27(3), 684 - 693. doi:10.1093/molbev/msp286


    • Rota-Stabelli O, Yang Z, Telford MJ (2009). MtZoa: a general mitochondrial amino acid substitutions model for animal evolutionary studies.. Mol Phylogenet Evol, 52(1), 268 - 272. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.01.011
    • Telford MJ (2009). Animal evolution: once upon a time.. Curr Biol, 19(8), R339 - R341. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.03.025
    • Rota-Stabelli O, Yang Z, Telford MJ (2009). MtZoa: a general mitochondrial amino acid substitutions model for animal evolutionary studies.. Mol Phylogenet Evol, , - . doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.01.011


    • Telford MJ (2008). Xenoturbellida: the fourth deuterostome phylum and the diet of worms. Genesis, 46(11), 580 - 586.
    • Telford MJ, Littlewood DT (2008). The evolution of the animals: introduction to a Linnean tercentenary celebration.. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 363(1496), 1421 - 1424. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2231
    • Nakano H, Bourlat S, Obst M, Nakano A, Telford M, Thorndyke M (2008). Developmental Studies of Xenoturbella. J MORPHOL, 269(12), 1477 - 1478.
    • Obst M, Nakano H, Bourlat SJ, Thorndike MC, Telford MJ, Nyengaard JR, Funch P (2008). The Spermatozoan Ultrastructure of Xenotubella Suggests a Close Relationship to Enteropneust Hemichordates. JOURNAL OF MORPHOLOGY, 269(12), 1478 - 1478.
    • Bourlat SJ, Nielsen C, Economou AD, Telford M (2008). Testing the new animal phylogeny: A phylum level molecular analysis of the animal kingdom. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 49(1), 23 - 31.
    • (2008). The evolution of the animals: a Linnean tercentenary celebration.. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1496), 1421 - 1578.
    • Prpic NM, Telford M (2008). Expression of homothorax and extradenticle mRNA in the legs of the crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis: evidence for a reversal of gene expression regulation in the pancrustacean lineage.. Development, Genes and Evolution, 218(6), 333 - 339.
    • Bourlat SJ, Nakano H, Akerman M, Telford MJ, Thorndyke M, Obst M (2008). Feeding ecology of Xenoturbella bocki (phylum Xenoturbellida) revealed by genetic barcoding.. Molecular Ecology Resources, 8, 18 - 22.
    • Telford MJ, Bourlat SJ, Economou AD, Papillon D, Rota-Stabelli O (2008). The evolution of the Ecdysozoa. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1496), 1529 - 1537.
    • Telford MJ (2008). Resolving animal phylogeny – a sledge-hammer for a tough nut?. Developmental Cell, 14(4), 457 - 459.
    • Rota-Stabelli O, Telford MJ (2008). A multi criterion approach for the selection of optimal outgroups in phylogeny: recovering support for Mandibulata over Myriochelata using mitogenomics.. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 43, 103 - 111.


    • Telford MJ (2007). Phylogenomics. Current Biology, 17(22), R945 - R946.
    • Webster BL, Mackenzie-Dodds JA, Telford MJ, Littlewood DTJ (2007). The mitochondrial genome of Priapulus caudatus Lamarck (Priapulida: Priapulidae).. Gene, 389(1), 96 - 105.
    • Telford MJ (2007). A single origin of the central nervous system?. Cell, 129(2), 237 - 239.
    • Papillon D, Telford MJ (2007). Evolution of Hox3 and ftz in arthropods: insights from the crustacean Daphnia pulex.. Development, Genes and Evolution, 217(4), 315 - 322.


    • Webster BL, Copley RR, Jenner RA, Mackenzie-Dodds JA, Bourlat SJ, Littlewood DTJ, Telford M (2006). Mitogenomics and phylogenomics reveal priapulid worms as extant models of the ancestral ecdysozoan.. Evolution and Development, 8(6), 502 - 510.
    • Telford M (2006). Animal Phylogeny. Current Biology, 16(23), R981 - R985.
    • Philippe H, Telford MJ (2006). Large-scale sequencing and the new animal phylogeny.. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 21(11), 614 - 620. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2006.08.004
    • Matus DQ, Copley RR, Dunn CW, Hejnol A, Eccleston H, Halanych KM, Martindale MQ, Telford M (2006). Broad taxon and gene sampling indicate that chaetognaths are protostomes.. Current Biology, 16(15), R575 - R576. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.07.017
    • Bourlat SJ, Juliusdottir T, Lowe CJ, Freeman R, Aronowicz J, Kirschner M, Lander ES, Thorndyke M, Nakano H, Moroz L, Heyland A, Copley RR, Telford M (2006). Deuterostome phylogeny reveals monophyletic chordates and the new phylum Xenoturbellida. Nature, 444(7115), 85 - 88. doi:10.1038/nature05241
    • Todaro MA, Telford MJ, Lockyer AE, Littlewood DTJ (2006). Interrelationships of the Gastrotricha and their place among the Metazoa inferred from 18S rDNA.. Zoologica Scripta, 35, 251 - 259.
    • Peel AD, Telford MJ, Akam ME (2006). The evolution of hexapod engrailed-family genes: evidence for conservation and concerted evolution.. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273(1595), 1733 - 1742.
    • Waeschenbach A, Telford MJ, Porter JS, Littlewood DTJ (2006). The complete mitochondrial genome of Flustrellidra hispida and the phylogenetic position of Bryozoa among the Metazoa.. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 40(1), 195 - 207.


    • Telford MJ, Gowri-Shankar V, Wise MJ (2005). Consideration of RNA secondary structure significantly improves likelihood-based estimates of phylogeny: Examples from the Bilateria.. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 22(4), 1129 - 1136. doi:10.1093/molbev/msi099
    • Budd GE, Telford MJ (2005). Evolution: along came a sea spider.. Nature, 437(7062), 1099 - 1102.
    • Telford MJC, R R (2005). Animal phylogeny: fatal attraction.. Current Biology, 15(8), R296 - R299.


    • Copley RR, Aloy P, Russell RB, Telford MJ (2004). Systematic searches for molecular synapomorphies in model metazoan genomes give some support for Ecdysozoa after accounting for the idiosyncrasies of Caenorhabditis elegans.. Evolution and Development, 6(3), 164 - 169.
    • Telford MJ (2004). The multimeric beta-thymosin found in nematodes and arthropods is not a synapomorphy of the Ecdysozoa.. Evolution and Development, 6(2), 90 - 94.
    • Telford MJ (2004). Animal phylogeny: back to the coelomata?. Current Biology, 14(7), R274 - R276.
    • Telford MJ (2004). Evolution: affinity for arrow worms.. Nature, 431(7006), 254 - 256.
    • Littlewood DTJ, Telford MJ, Bray RA (2004). Protostomes and Platyhelminthes: the worm’s turn.. In Donoghue M, Cracraft J (Ed.), Assembling the Tree of Life (pp. - ). : OUP.


    • Telford MJ, Budd GE (2003). The place of phylogeny and cladistics in Evo-Devo research.. International Journal of Developmental Biology, 47, 179 - 490.
    • Telford MJ, Budd GE (2003). The place of phylogeny and cladistics in Evo-Devo research.. Int J Dev Biol, 47(7-8), 479 - 490.
    • Bourlat SJ, Nielsen C, Lockyer AE, Littlewood DT, Telford MJ (2003). Xenoturbella is a deuterostome that eats molluscs. Nature, 424(6951), 925 - 928. doi:10.1038/nature01851
    • Telford MJ, Lockyer AE, Cartwright-Finch C, Littlewood DT (2003). Combined large and small subunit ribosomal RNA phylogenies support a basal position of the acoelomorph flatworms.. Proc Biol Sci, 270(1519), 1077 - 1083. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2342
    • Telford MJ, Lockyer AE, Littlewood DTJ, Cartwright-Finch C (2003). Combined large and small subunit ribosomal RNA phylogenies support a basal position of the acoelomorph flatworms.. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 270(1519), 1977 - 1083.


    • Telford MJ (2002). Cladistic Analyses of Molecular Characters: The Good the Bad and the Ugly.. Contributions to Zoology, 71, 93 - 100.


    • Telford MJ, Herniou EA, Russell RBL, D TJ (2001). Changes in mitochondrial genetic codes as phylogenetic characters: two examples from the flatworms.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97(21), 11359 - 11364.
    • Littlewood DTJ, Olson PD, Telford MJ, Herniou EE, Riutort M (2001). Elongation Factor 1-alpha sequences alone do not assist in resolving the position of the Acoela within the Metazoa.. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 18(3), 437 - 442.
    • Cook CE, Smith ML, Telford MJ, Bastianello A, Akam M (2001). Hox genes and the phylogeny of the arthropods.. Curr Biol, 11(10), 759 - 763.
    • Cook CE, Smith ML, Telford MJ, Bastianello A, Akam ME (2001). Hox genes and the phylogeny of the arthropods.. Current Biology, 15(11), 759 - 763.
    • Telford MJ (2001). Embryology and developmental genes as clues to platyhelminth relationships.. In Littlewood DTJ, Bray RA (Ed.), Interrelationships of the Platyhelminthes (pp. 257 - 261). : Taylor and Francis.
    • Telford MJ (2001). Evidence for the derivation of the Drosophila fushi tarazu gene from a Hox gene orthologous to lophotrochozoan Lox5.. Current Biology, 10(6), 349 - 352.


    • Telford MJ (2000). Turning Hox "signatures" into synapomorphies.. Evolution and Development, 2(6), 360 - 364.


    • Thomas RH, Telford MJ (1999). An SEM study of appendage development in embryos of the oribatid mite, Archegozetes longisetosus (Acari, Oribatei, Trhypochthoniidae).. Acta Zoologica, 80, 193 - 200.


    • Telford MJ, Thomas RH (1998). Expression of homeobox genes show chelicerate arthropods retain their deutocerebral segment.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 95(18), 10671 - 10675.
    • Telford MJ, Thomas RH (1998). Of mites and zen: expression studies in a chelicerate arthropod confirm zen is a divergent Hox gene.. Development, Genes and Evolution, 208(10), 591 - 594.
    • Littlewood DTJ, Telford MJC, K A R, K (1998). Gnathostomulida - an enigmatic metazoan phylum from both morphological and molecular perspectives.. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 9(1), 72 - 79.


    • Telford MJ, Holland PW (1997). Evolution of 28S ribosomal DNA in chaetognaths: duplicate genes and molecular phylogeny.. J Mol Evol, 44(2), 135 - 144.
    • Telford MJ, Holland PWH (1997). The phylogenetic affinities of the chaetognaths: a molecular analysis.. Journal of Molecular Biology, 44(2), 135 - 144.


    • Telford MJ, Thomas RH (1996). The demise of the Atelocerata?. Nature, 376, 123 - 124.


    • Balavoine G, Telford MJ (1995). Identification of planarian homeobox sequences indicates the antiquity of most Hox/homeotic gene subclasses.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 92(16), 7227 - 7231.


    • Telford MJ, Holland PWH (1993). The phylogenetic affinities of the chaetognaths: a molecular analysis.. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 10(3), 660 - 676.

    • Telford MJ, Littlewood DTJ (). Animal evolution: genomes, trees and fossils.
    • Budd GE, Telford MJ (). The Origin and Evolution of the Arthropods. Nature, 470, 255 - 258.
    • Telford MJ, Economou , A D (). Comparative gene expression in the heads of Drosophila melanogaster and Tribolium castaneum and the segmental affinity of the Drosophila hypopharyngeal lobes. Evolution and Development, , - .
    • Bourlat SJ, Rota-Stabelli O, Lanfear R, Telford MJ (). The mitochondrial genome structure of Xenoturbella bocki (phylum Xenoturbellida) is ancestral within the deuterostomes. BMC Evolutionary Biology, , - .