Parallel evolution of segmentation by co-option of ancestral gene regulatory networks

Bioessays. 2010 Jan;32(1):60-70. doi: 10.1002/bies.200900130.


Different sources of data on the evolution of segmentation lead to very different conclusions. Molecular similarities in the developmental pathways generating a segmented body plan tend to suggest a segmented common ancestor for all bilaterally symmetrical animals. Data from paleontology and comparative morphology suggest that this is unlikely. A possible solution to this conundrum is that throughout evolution there was a parallel co-option of gene regulatory networks that had conserved ancestral roles in determining body axes and in elongating the anterior-posterior axis. Inherent properties in some of these networks made them easily recruitable for generating repeated patterns and for determining segmental boundaries. Phyla where this process happened are among the most successful in the animal kingdom, as the modular nature of the segmental body organization allowed them to diverge and radiate into a bewildering array of variations on a common theme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Annelida / embryology
  • Annelida / genetics
  • Arthropods / embryology
  • Arthropods / genetics
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Patterning / genetics*
  • Chordata / embryology
  • Chordata / genetics
  • Fossils
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phylogeny