A review from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences highlights the importance of developmental processes in understanding nervous system evolution.
The new review published recently in Royal Society Philosophical Transactions B highlights that the same genes are used throughout the animal kingdom for generating neural stem cells and other precursor cells of the nervous system. If the same genes are used, how then did the different shapes and behaviours evolve? Using the hugely diverse arthropods as an example, the review shows that neural genes can have many different functions in early nervous system development in the different species and morphological contexts.. The review suggests that this flexibility of the neural genes has facilitated the evolution of the neuronal networks and the adaptation to different shapes and environments.
The paper came out following a Royal Society discussion meeting on the 'Origin and evolution of the nervous system' in March 2015.
Author of the review and Reader in Evolutionary Development Biology at SBCS Angelika Stollewerk explains:
“The data clearly show that in order to understand the evolution of shape and behaviour, we have to go beyond detecting genes and sequence variations in genomes. We have to understand the actual role of the genes in the developmental processes, which ultimately determine the shape and function of the adult nervous system.”