Larval development in Cnidaria: a connection to Bilateria?

Genesis. 2001 Mar;29(3):110-4. doi: 10.1002/gene.1013.


Among the basal animal phyla, the Cnidaria display many characteristics similar to the Bilateria (the higher Metazoa). However, the relation of that outgroup phyla to the Bilateria is still equivocal. Additionally to morphological and genetic data, studies on cnidarian embryogenesis are essential to clarify the Cnidaria-Bilateria relationship. We analyzed cellular differentiation during planula larvae development of the jellyfish Podocoryne carnea. Within 24 to 30 h postfertilization, the diploblastic body structure and all cell types found in polyps have already differentiated in the larva. Whereas the differentiating smooth muscles, RFamide-positive nerve cells, or nematocytes (stinging cells) express no axial polarity, a newly discovered tyrosine-tubulin-positive nervous system develops gradually in repetitive patterns from anterior to posterior. These data demonstrate that part of the cnidarian nervous system develops from anterior to posterior in serially repeated patterns. This developmental mechanism seems to follow the bilaterian pattern and would have antedated the Cambrian explosion.

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cnidaria / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Male
  • Nervous System / chemistry
  • Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neuropeptides / analysis
  • Tubulin / analysis


  • Neuropeptides
  • RFamide peptide
  • Tubulin