Research ArticleEVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

Canadia spinosa and the early evolution of the annelid nervous system

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Science Advances  11 Sep 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 9, eaax5858
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax5858

Abstract

Annelid worms are a disparate, primitively segmented clade of bilaterians that first appear during the early Cambrian Period. Reconstructing their early evolution is complicated by the extreme morphological diversity in early diverging lineages, rapid diversification, and sparse fossil record. Canadia spinosa, a Burgess Shale fossil polychaete, is redescribed as having palps with feeding grooves, a dorsal median antenna and biramous parapodia associated with the head and flanking a ventral mouth. Carbonaceously preserved features are identified as a terminal brain, circumoral connectives, a midventral ganglionated nerve cord and prominent parapodial nerves. Phylogenetic analysis recovers neuroanatomically simple extant taxa as the sister group of other annelids, but the phylogenetic position of Canadia suggests that the annelid ancestor was reasonably complex neuroanatomically and that reduction of the nervous system occurred several times independently in the subsequent 500 million years of annelid evolution.

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