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From "the Worm" to "the Worms" and Back Again: The Evolutionary Developmental Biology of Nematodes.

Eric S Haag, David HA Fitch, and Marie Delattre (2018)

Genetics, 210(2):397-433.

Since the earliest days of research on nematodes, scientists have noted the developmental and morphological variation that exists within and between species. As various cellular and developmental processes were revealed through intense focus on Caenorhabditis elegans, these comparative studies have expanded. Withinthe genus Caenorhabditis, they include characterization of intraspecific polymorphisms and comparisons of distinct species, all generally amenable to thesame laboratory culture methods and supported by robust genomic and experimentaltools. The C. elegans paradigm has also motivated studies with more distantly related nematodes and animals. Combined with improved phylogenies, this work hasled to important insights about the evolution of nematode development. First, while many aspects of C. elegans development are representative of Caenorhabditis, and of terrestrial nematodes more generally, others vary in waysboth obvious and cryptic. Second, the system has revealed several clear examplesof developmental flexibility in achieving a particular trait. This includes developmental system drift, in which the developmental control of homologous traits has diverged in different lineages, and cases of convergent evolution. Overall, the wealth of information and experimental techniques developed in C. elegans is being leveraged to make nematodes a powerful system for evolutionary cellular and developmental biology.

 
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