The deuterostome context of chordate origins

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Abstract

Our understanding of vertebrate origins is powerfully informed by comparative morphology, embryology and genomics of chordates, hemichordates and echinoderms, which together make up the deuterostome clade. Striking body-plan differences among these phyla have historically hindered the identification of ancestral morphological features, but recent progress in molecular genetics and embryology has revealed deep similarities in body-axis formation and organization across deuterostomes, at stages before morphological differences develop. These developmental genetic features, along with robust support of pharyngeal gill slits as a shared deuterostome character, provide the foundation for the emergence of chordates.

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