American scientists’ study of starfish provides new insight into their unique biology and evolutionary development. The discovery that adult sea stars are actually made up of a head could revolutionize our understanding of their anatomy and development.
Starfish are interesting because they have a radial symmetry that differs from the bilateral symmetry we are more familiar with. The fact that they have upregulated genes for head development throughout their body supports the idea that they lack the traditional division between head, body and tail in many animals.
Interestingly, only one gene was found associated with the development of the trunk, which once again emphasizes their unique evolutionary history. This discovery could help scientists understand not only the morphological history of sea stars, but also provides clues to the broader evolutionary processes that lead to the diversity of life forms.
The next step in research on sea urchins and sea cucumbers will provide a more complete understanding of how the various groups of echinoderms developed and what evolutionary paths they took.
Also, studying the evolution of the nervous system of echinoderms can provide important information about the development of complex systems for organizing nervous processes and how the diversity of nervous systems is formed in different groups of animals. These data will not only help to better understand living members of this phylum, but will also provide important clues about processes that may have played a role in the history of life on Earth.