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1 February 2003 Bridging Morphological Transitions to the Metazoa
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Our inability to answer many questions regarding the development of metazoan complexity may be due in part to the prevailing idea that most eukaryote “phyla” originated within a short period of geologic time from simple unicellular ancestors. This view, however, is contradicted by evidence that larger groups of eukaryotes share characters, suggesting that these assemblages inherited characters from a common ancestor. Because molecular analyses have had limited success in resolving the relationships of higher eukaryote taxa, we have undertaken a phylogenetic analysis based primarily on morphological characters. The analysis emphasizes characters considered to have a high probability of having evolved only once. Transitions between taxa are evaluated for the likelihood of character-state transformations. The analysis indicates that the evolutionary history of the clade containing the Metazoa has been complex, encompassing the gain and loss of a secondary and perhaps a primary photosynthetic endosymbiont with accompanying changes in trophic level. The history also appears to have included a hetero-autotrophic ancestor that possessed a “conoid” feeding apparatus and may have involved a transformation from a flagellate to an amoeboid body form, a trend toward increased intracellular compartmentation, and the development of complex social behavior. Such changes could have been critical for establishing the underlying complexity required for a rapid diversification of cell and tissue types in the early stages of metazoan evolution.

Ruth Ann Dewel, Mary U. Connell, and William C. Dewel "Bridging Morphological Transitions to the Metazoa 1," Integrative and Comparative Biology 43(1), (1 February 2003).
Published: 1 February 2003

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