The radial-symmetric hydra and the evolution of the bilateral body plan: an old body became a young brain

Bioessays. 2002 Feb;24(2):185-91. doi: 10.1002/bies.10045.


The radial symmetric cnidarians are regarded as being close to the common metazoan ancestor before bilaterality evolved. It is proposed that a large fraction of the body of this gastrula-like organism gave rise to the head of more evolved organisms. The trunk was added later in evolution from an unfolding of a narrow zone between the tentacles and the blastoporus. This implies that, counter intuitively, the foot of the hydra corresponds to the most anterior part (forebrain and heart) while the opening of the gastric column gave rise to the anus. Two fundamentally different modes of midline formation evolved. In vertebrates, the organiser attracts cells from the both sides of the marginal zone. These leave the organiser as a unified band. The midline is formed sequentially from anterior to posterior. In insects, the midline forms opposite a dorsal repelling center, i.e., on the ventral side. This can occur more or less simultaneously over the whole anteroposterior extension.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Patterning / genetics*
  • Body Patterning / physiology
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Hydra / anatomy & histology*
  • Hydra / genetics
  • Hydra / physiology*
  • Models, Anatomic


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • al protein, Drosophila