The larval nervous system of the penis worm Priapulus caudatus (Ecdysozoa)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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The origin and extreme diversification of the animal nervous system is a central question in biology. While most of the attention has traditionally been paid to those lineages with highly elaborated nervous systems (e.g. arthropods, vertebrates, annelids), only the study of the vast animal diversity can deliver a comprehensive view of the evolutionary history of this organ system. In this regard, the phylogenetic position and apparently conservative molecular, morphological and embryological features of priapulid worms (Priapulida) place this animal lineage as a key to understanding the evolution of the Ecdysozoa (i.e. arthropods and nematodes). In this study, we characterize the nervous system of the hatching larva and first lorica larva of the priapulid worm Priapulus caudatus by immunolabelling against acetylated and tyrosinated tubulin, pCaMKII, serotonin and FMRFamide. Our results show that a circumoral brain and an unpaired ventral nerve with a caudal ganglion characterize the central nervous system of hatching embryos. After the first moult, the larva attains some adult features: a neck ganglion, an introvert plexus, and conspicuous secondary longitudinal neurites. Our study delivers a neuroanatomical framework for future embryological studies in priapulid worms, and helps illuminate the course of nervous system evolution in the Ecdysozoa.