Cnidarians (corals, anemones, jellyfish and hydras) are a diverse group of animals of interest to evolutionary biologists, ecologists and developmental biologists. With the publication of the genome sequences of Hydra and Nematostella, whose last common ancestor was the stem cnidarian, researchers are beginning to see the genomic underpinnings of cnidarian biology. Cnidarians are known for the remarkable plasticity of their morphology and life cycles. This plasticity is reflected in the Hydra and Nematostella genomes, which differ to an exceptional degree in size, base composition, transposable element content and gene conservation. It is now known what cnidarian genomes, given 500 million years, are capable of; as we discuss here, the next challenge is to understand how this genomic history has led to the striking diversity seen in this group.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.