Where does our head come from?
A research group at the Sars Centre in Bergen has shed new light on the evolutionary origin of the head. In a study published in the journal PLoS Biology they show that in a simple, brainless sea anemone, the same genes that control head development in higher animals regulate the development of the front end of the swimming larvae.
In many animals, the brain is located in a specific structure, the head, together with sensory organs and often together with the mouth. However, there are even more distantly related animals, which have a nervous system, but no brain, like sea anemones and corals.
In this study a research group led by Fabian Rentzsch used the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis to find out if one of the ends of the sea anemone corresponds to the head of higher animals. To do this they studied the function of genes that control head development in higher animals during the embryonic development of the starlet sea anemone.
“Despite looking completely different, it has become clear over the last decade, that all animals have a similar repertoire of genes, including those that are required to make the head of higher animals”, says first author and PhD-student Chiara Sinigaglia.