The radiata and the evolutionary origins of the bilaterian body plan

Mark Q. Martindale, John R. Finnerty, Jonathan Q. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The apparent conservation of cellular and molecular developmental mechanisms observed in a handful of bilaterian metazoans has spawned a "race" to reconstruct the bilaterian ancestor. Knowledge of this ancestor would permit us to reconstruct the evolutionary changes that have occurred along specific bilaterian lineages. However, comparisons among extant bilaterians provide an unnecessarily limited view of the ancestral bilaterian. Since the original bilaterians are believed by many to be derived from a radially symmetrical ancestor, additional evidence might be obtained by examining present-day radially symmetrical animals. We briefly review pertinent features of the body plans of the extant radial eumetazoan phyla, the Cnidaria, and Ctenophora, in the context of revealing potential evolutionary links to the bilaterians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-365
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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