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Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 2023 Feb 01;981:316-351. doi: 10.1111/brv.12908.
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Worms and gills, plates and spines: the evolutionary origins and incredible disparity of deuterostomes revealed by fossils, genes, and development.

Nanglu K , Cole SR , Wright DF , Souto C .

Deuterostomes are the major division of animal life which includes sea stars, acorn worms, and humans, among a wide variety of ecologically and morphologically disparate taxa. However, their early evolution is poorly understood, due in part to their disparity, which makes identifying commonalities difficult, as well as their relatively poor early fossil record. Here, we review the available morphological, palaeontological, developmental, and molecular data to establish a framework for exploring the origins of this important and enigmatic group. Recent fossil discoveries strongly support a vermiform ancestor to the group Hemichordata, and a fusiform active swimmer as ancestor to Chordata. The diverse and anatomically bewildering variety of forms among the early echinoderms show evidence of both bilateral and radial symmetry. We consider four characteristics most critical for understanding the form and function of the last common ancestor to Deuterostomia: Hox gene expression patterns, larval morphology, the capacity for biomineralization, and the morphology of the pharyngeal region. We posit a deuterostome last common ancestor with a similar antero-posterior gene regulatory system to that found in modern acorn worms and cephalochordates, a simple planktonic larval form, which was later elaborated in the ambulacrarian lineage, the ability to secrete calcium minerals in a limited fashion, and a pharyngeal respiratory region composed of simple pores. This animal was likely to be motile in adult form, as opposed to the sessile origins that have been historically suggested. Recent debates regarding deuterostome monophyly as well as the wide array of deuterostome-affiliated problematica further suggest the possibility that those features were not only present in the last common ancestor of Deuterostomia, but potentially in the ur-bilaterian. The morphology and development of the early deuterostomes, therefore, underpin some of the most significant questions in the study of metazoan evolution.

PubMed ID: 36257784
Article link: Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc