The origin and radiation of the major metazoan groups can be elucidated by phylogenomic studies, but morphological evolution must be inferred from embryology and morphology of living organisms. According to the trochaea theory, protostomes are derived from a holoplanktonic gastraea with a circumblastoporal ring of downstream-collecting compound cilia (archaeotroch) and a nervous system comprising an apical ganglion and a circumblastoporal nerve ring. The pelago-benthic life cycle evolved through the addition of a benthic adult stage, with lateral blastopore closure creating a tube-shaped gut. The archaeotroch became differentiated as prototroch, metatroch and telotroch in the (trochophora) larva, but was lost in the adult. The apical ganglion was lost in the adult, as in all neuralians. Paired cerebral ganglia developed from the first micromere quartet. The circumblastoporal nerve became differentiated into a pair of ventral nerve cords with loops around mouth (the anterior part of the blastopore) and anus. Almost all new information about morphology and embryology fits the trochaea theory. The predicted presence of a perioral loop of the blastoporal nerve ring has now been demonstrated in two annelids. Alternative ‘intercalation theories’ propose that planktotrophic larvae evolved many times from direct-developing ancestors, but this finds no support from considerations of adaptation.
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Vol. 26 • No. 1