The mode of insect embryogenesis varies among species, reflecting adaptations to different life history strategies [1, 2]. In holometabolous insects, which include the model systems, such as the fruit fly and the red flour beetle, a large proportion of the blastoderm produces an embryo, whereas hemimetabolous embryos generally arise from a small region of the blastoderm . Despite their importance in evolutionary studies, information of early developmental dynamics of hemimetabolous insects remains limited. Here, to clarify how maternal and gap gene products act in patterning the embryo of basal hemimetabolous insects, we analyzed the dynamic segmentation process in transgenic embryos of an intermediate-germ insect species, the cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus. Our data based on live imaging of fluorescently labeled embryonic cells and nuclei suggest that the positional specification of the cellular blastoderm may be established in the syncytium, where maternally derived gradients could act fundamentally in a way that is similar to that of Drosophila, namely throughout the egg. Then, the blastoderm cells move dynamically, retaining their positional information to form the posteriorly localized germ anlage. Furthermore, we find that the anterior head region of the cricket embryo is specified by orthodenticle in a cellular environment earlier than the gnathal and thoracic regions. Our findings imply that the syncytial mode of the early segmentation in long-germ insects evolved from a dynamic syncytial-to-cellular mode found in the present study, accompanied by a heterochronic shift of gap gene action.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.