Constructing the Head and Brain of Vertebrates: How the Study of Development Sheds Light on Evolution
Nicole Le Douarin explores the neural crest, an important embryonic structure that appeared in primitive vertebrates. All animals that belong to the phylum Chordata—which includes invertebrates in addition to all vertebrates—are endowed with anatomical features that include a dorsal neural tube and a longitudinal rod of cells, the notochord. The neural crest, however, is present only in vertebrates and is considered an innovation of this group. This innovation allowed for the development of a “new head” and a sophisticated brain, which accounts for the remarkable evolutionary success of vertebrates, including primates and humans.
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