Molecular and morphological comparisons indicate that the Echinodermata and Hemichordata represent closely related sister-phyla within the Deuterostomia. Much less is known about the development of the hemichordates compared to other deuterostomes. For the first time, cell lineage analyses have been carried out for an indirect-developing representative of the enteropneust hemichordates, Ptychodera flava. Single blastomeres were iontophoretically labeled with Dil at the 2- through 16-cell stages, and their fates followed through development to the tornaria larval stage. The early cleavage pattern of P. flava is similar to that of the direct-developing hemichordate, Saccoglossus kowalevskii, as well as that displayed by indirect-developing echinoids. The 16-celled embryo contains eight animal "mesomeres," four slightly larger "macromeres," and four somewhat smaller vegetal "micromeres." The first cleavage plane was not found to bear one specific relationship relative to the larval dorsoventral axis. Although individual blastomeres generate discrete clones of cells, the appearance and exact locations of these clones are variable with respect to the embryonic dorsoventral and bilateral axes. The eight animal mesomeres generate anterior (animal) ectoderm of the larva, which includes the apical organ; however, contributions to the apical organ were found to be variable as only a subset of the animal blastomeres end up contributing to its formation and this varies from embryo to embryo. The macromeres generate posterior larval ectoderm, and the vegetal micromeres form all the internal, endomesodermal tissues. These blastomere contributions are similar to those found during development of the only other hemichordate studied, the direct-developing enteropneust, S. kowalevskii. Finally, isolated blastomeres prepared at either the two- or the four-cell stage are capable of forming normal-appearing, miniature tornaria larvae. These findings indicate that the fates of these cells and embryonic dorsoventral axial properties are not committed at these early stages of development. Comparisons with the developmental programs of other deuterostome phyla allow one to speculate on the conservation of some key developmental events/mechanisms and propose basal character states shared by the ancestor of echinoderms and hemichordates.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Developmental Biology