Thursday, May 4, 2006

Alternate mechanism for diversity of cnidarians?

This week it was announced in the journal Current Biology that researchers in Hanover have discovered that Cnidarians, an animal phylum including jellyfish and sea anemones, lack the homeobox (aka Hox) gene system that guides development of body form in other animals.
It is known that Cnidarians (part of the Radiata) diverged from the lineage leading to bilateral animals extremely early in the history of life, and this new finding shows that the split may have predated the development of Hox genes.
What makes this news significant is that Hox gene duplications are often credited with the diversification of animal body types/forms, so the astonishing diversity of Cnidarians has occured with a separate, previously unstudied mechanism. It will definitely be interesting to track the follow up studies on this!

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