Conservation and innovation in spiralian development

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Abstract

It is clear that the spiralian developmental program represents a highly flexible platform for the generation of diverse larval and adult body plans. The widespread occurrence of this pattern of early development attests to its tremendous evolutionary success. Despite the large degree of conservation in the spiral cleavage pattern and other basic aspects of early development, changes in cell fate maps and in the mechanisms of blastomere specification have arisen. While we have learned a great deal about this mode of development, a number of important questions remain to be answered. To what extent do these conditions apply to the lesser studied spiralian phyla? What constraints have led to the preservation of the early spiral cleavage program? How has this developmental program been adapted for the construction of the various spiralian body plans (e.g. the segmental body plans of annelids or to the potential secondary loss of segmentation)? Are most changes associated with the elaboration of these different larval and adult body plans restricted to the late period of development? What molecular/genetic processes underlie this developmental program? Clearly, the spiralian phyla represent an important group of organisms for further studies on development and evolution.

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