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From variable to constant cell numbers: cellular characteristics of the arthropod nervous system argue against a sister-group relationship of Chelicerata and “Myriapoda” but favour the Mandibulata concept


In the new debate on arthropod phylogeny, structure and development of the nervous system provide important arguments. The architecture of the brain of Hexapoda, Crustacea and Chelicerata in recent years has been thoroughly compared against an evolutionary background. However, comparative aspects of the nervous systems in these taxa at the cellular level have been examined in only a few studies. This review sets out to summarize these aspects and to analyse the existing data with respect to the concept of individually identifiable neurons. In particular, mechanisms of neurogenesis, the morphology of serotonergic interneurons, the number of motoneurons, and cellular features and development of the lateral eyes are discussed. We conclude that in comparison to the Mandibulata, in Chelicerata the numbers of neurons in the different classes examined are much higher and in many cases are not fixed but variable. The cell numbers in Mandibulata are lower and the majority of neurons are individually identifiable. The characters explored in this review are mapped onto an existing phylogram, as derived from brain architecture in which the Hexapoda are an in-group of the Crustacea, and there is not any conflict of the current data with such a phylogenetic position of the Hexapoda. Nevertheless, these characters argue against a sister-group relationship of “Myriapoda” and Chelicerata as has been recently suggested in several molecular studies, but instead provide strong evidence in favour of the Mandibulata concept.

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S.H. is a Heisenbergfellow of the DFG.

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Harzsch, S., Müller, C.H.G. & Wolf, H. From variable to constant cell numbers: cellular characteristics of the arthropod nervous system argue against a sister-group relationship of Chelicerata and “Myriapoda” but favour the Mandibulata concept. Dev Genes Evol 215, 53–68 (2005).

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  • Tetraconata
  • Phylogeny
  • Arthropoda
  • Evolution