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. 2015 Dec 19;370(1684):20150033.
doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0033.

Introduction to 'Origin and Evolution of the Nervous System'

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Free PMC article

Introduction to 'Origin and Evolution of the Nervous System'

Nicholas J Strausfeld et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

In 1665, Robert Hooke demonstrated in Micrographia the power of the microscope and comparative observations, one of which revealed similarities between the arthropod and vertebrate eyes. Utilizing comparative observations, Saint-Hilaire in 1822 was the first to propose that the ventral nervous system of arthropods corresponds to the dorsal nervous system of vertebrates. Since then, studies on the origin and evolution of the nervous system have become inseparable from studies about Metazoan origins and the origins of organ systems. The advent of genome sequence data and, in turn, phylogenomics and phylogenetics have refined cladistics and expanded our understanding of Metazoan phylogeny. However, the origin and evolution of the nervous system is still obscure and many questions and problems remain. A recurrent problem is whether and to what extent sequence data provide reliable guidance for comparisons across phyla. Are genetic data congruent with the geological fossil records? How can we reconcile evolved character loss with phylogenomic records? And how informative are genetic data in relation to the specification of nervous system morphologies? These provide some of the background and context for a Royal Society meeting to discuss new data and concepts that might achieve insights into the origin and evolution of brains and nervous systems.

Keywords: brain; evolution; nervous system; origin.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
First pages of Robert Hooke's Micrographia.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Hooke's depiction in Micrographia of the compound eyes of a tabanid fly.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Drawings of the brain in situ, its lobes (upper inset) and mushroom body calyces (lower inset) of the honeybee Apis mellifera. From Jan Swammerdam's posthumously published Bybel der Natuure [5].
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
(a) The inverted lobster, from Geoffroy Saint-Hillaire's 1822 publication [7]. The figure has been reversed to line up with the images below. (b) Richard Owen's 1883 [8] illustrations of a dissected newt and blowfly larva, the latter inverted to demonstrate homology of their central nervous systems and brains.

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