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Neural development of the brittlestar Amphiura filiformis

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Comparative features of the development of the larval nervous system of ophiuroids have the potential for resolving aspects of echinoderm evolution. In Amphiura filiformis serotonergic neural progenitors appear in the animal plate of late gastrulae. The serotonergic progenitors increase in number and become displaced to the aboral ectoderm side of the developing ciliary band. The ciliary band neurons appear as irregularly spaced neural progenitors on the oral side of the ciliary band lateral to the mouth. These cells extend neurites along the axis of the ciliary band, which meet at the center of the ventral transverse ciliary band. The larval nervous system begins as a U-shaped tract of axons that surrounds the oral field and tracts of axons and neurons in the ciliary bands of the larval arms are added. In addition, the larval nervous system has an extensive pre-oral neuropil, rings of nerves surrounding the anus and pyloric sphincters, and a plexus of axons that surround the esophagus. The nervous system of the juvenile develops beneath the oral ectoderm. The components of the adult nervous system: five segments of radial nerve, commissures that form the nerve ring, and podial nerves all appear as the juvenile develops. The larval nervous system begins to fragment and degenerate as the juvenile grows. The complete description of neural development of an ophiuroid reveals that the four classes so far investigated are consistent with phylogenies based on adult features and comparisons of neural organization help rationalize conflicting hypotheses of the evolution of larval forms in echinoderms.

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These studies were supported by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Broderna Jacob och Marcus Wallenbergsfond; H. M. Kongungens Wallenbergsfond; Knut och Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse; Vetenskapsrodet, Sweden, and NSERC (Canada)

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Correspondence to Robert D. Burke.

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H. Nishida

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Dupont, S., Thorndyke, W., Thorndyke, M.C. et al. Neural development of the brittlestar Amphiura filiformis . Dev Genes Evol 219, 159 (2009).

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  • Echinoderm
  • Evolution
  • Larval forms
  • Phylogeny
  • Neuroanatomy