Brief History of Ctenophora

Methods Mol Biol. 2024:2757:1-26. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-3642-8_1.


Ctenophores are the descendants of the earliest surviving lineage of ancestral metazoans, predating the branch leading to sponges (Ctenophore-first phylogeny). Emerging genomic, ultrastructural, cellular, and systemic data indicate that virtually every aspect of ctenophore biology as well as ctenophore development are remarkably different from what is described in representatives of other 32 animal phyla. The outcome of this reconstruction is that most system-level components associated with the ctenophore organization result from convergent evolution. In other words, the ctenophore lineage independently evolved as high animal complexities with the astonishing diversity of cell types and structures as bilaterians and cnidarians. Specifically, neurons, synapses, muscles, mesoderm, through gut, sensory, and integrative systems evolved independently in Ctenophora. Rapid parallel evolution of complex traits is associated with a broad spectrum of unique ctenophore-specific molecular innovations, including alternative toolkits for making an animal. However, the systematic studies of ctenophores are in their infancy, and deciphering their remarkable morphological and functional diversity is one of the hot topics in biological research, with many anticipated surprises.

Keywords: Cell-type evolution; Ctenophora; Development; Mnemiopsis; Muscles; Neurons; Phylogeny; Placozoa; Pleurobrachia; Porifera.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Ctenophora* / genetics
  • Phylogeny*