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Review
, 27 (3), 299-310

A Twelve-Step Program for Evolving Multicellularity and a Division of Labor

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Review

A Twelve-Step Program for Evolving Multicellularity and a Division of Labor

David L Kirk. Bioessays.

Abstract

The volvocine algae provide an unrivalled opportunity to explore details of an evolutionary pathway leading from a unicellular ancestor to multicellular organisms with a division of labor between different cell types. Members of this monophyletic group of green flagellates range in complexity from unicellular Chlamydomonas through a series of extant organisms of intermediate size and complexity to Volvox, a genus of spherical organisms that have thousands of cells and a germ-soma division of labor. It is estimated that these organisms all shared a common ancestor about 50 +/- 20 MYA. Here we outline twelve important ways in which the developmental repertoire of an ancestral unicell similar to modern C. reinhardtii was modified to produce first a small colonial organism like Gonium that was capable of swimming directionally, then a sequence of larger organisms (such as Pandorina, Eudorina and Pleodorina) in which there was an increasing tendency to differentiate two cell types, and eventually Volvox carteri with its complete germ-soma division of labor.

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