Marine worm rewrites theory of brain evolution

March 15, 2012 | Source: Nature News

The adult acorn worm is peppered with nerve cells, which have been dubbed a “skin brain” (credit: Ariel M. Pani et al./Nature)

A study of “brainless” worms has shattered the theory that complex brains evolved entirely in vertebrates, long after they branched off from spineless species in the tree of life.

By tagging proteins with markers, biologists found that embryonic acorn worms express the three protein combinations in regions of the embryo comparable to that of vertebrates during the development of their three-part brains.

What’s more, Lowe’s team demonstrated that proteins in each signaling center interact with one another in much same way that they do in vertebrates.

Ref.: Ariel M. Pani et al., Ancient deuterostome origins of vertebrate brain signalling centres, Nature, 2012 [DOI: 10.1038/nature10838]