Early post-metamorphic, Carboniferous blastoid reveals the evolution and development of the digestive system in echinoderms

Imran Rahman, Johnny A Waters, Colin D. Sumrall, Alberto Astolfo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
217 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Inferring the development of the earliest echinoderms is critical to uncovering the evolutionary assembly of the phylum-level body plan but has long proven problematic because early ontogenetic stages are rarely preserved as fossils. Here, we use synchrotron tomography to describe a new early post-metamorphic blastoid echinoderm from the Carboniferous (approx. 323 Ma) of China. The resulting three-dimensional reconstruction reveals a U-shaped tubular structure in the fossil interior, which is interpreted as the digestive tract. Comparisons with the developing gut of modern crinoids demonstrate that crinoids are an imperfect analogue for many extinct groups. Furthermore, consideration of our findings in a phylogenetic context allows us to reconstruct the evolution and development of the digestive system in echinoderms more broadly; there was a transition from a straight to a simple curved gut early in the phylum’s evolution, but additional loops and coils of the digestive tract (as seen in crinoids) were not acquired until much later.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20150776
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Volume11
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2015

Keywords

  • echinoderms
  • evolution
  • development
  • synchrotron
  • tomography

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