Friday, October 13, 2006
Bloomington, Indiana - Fossilized embryos predating the Cambrian Explosion by 10 million years provide evidence that early animals had already begun to adopt some of the structures and processes seen in today's embryos, say researchers from Indiana University Bloomington and nine other institutions in this week's journal Science. James Hagadorn (homepage) of Amherst College led the multi-disciplinary international collaborative project.
The researchers from the U.S., U.K., China, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia report the first direct evidence that primitive animals 550 million years ago were capable of asynchronous cell division during embryonic development. Asynchronous cell division allows the formation of unique shapes.
'We're learning something about how the very earliest multicellular animals formed embryos and how the embryos developed,' said IU Bloomington biologist Rudolf Raff (homepage), a co-author of the report. 'This gives us an enormous and entirely surprising look at half-a-billion-year-old embryos in the act of cleaving. What a window on the past. We've had no prior idea what they might have done.' [Fossilised, Palaeontology, Paleontology, Biology]
Based on "Cellular and Subcellular Structure of Neoproterozoic Animal Embryos" (Abstract)
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