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Gostling, N J; Thomas, C W; Greenwood, J M; Dong, X; Bengtson, S; Raff, E C; Raff, R A; Degnan, B M; Stampanoni, M; Donoghue, P C J (2008). Deciphering the fossil record of early bilaterian embryonic development in light of experimental taphonomy. Evolution and Development, 10(3):339-349.

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Experimental analyses of decay in a tunicate deuterostome and three lophotrochozoans indicate that the controls on decay and preservation of embryos, identified previously based on echinoids, are more generally applicable. Four stages of decay are identified regardless of the environment of death and decay. Embryos decay rapidly in oxic and anoxic conditions, although the gross morphology of embryos is maintained for longer under anoxic conditions. Under anoxic reducing conditions, the gross morphology of the embryos is maintained for the longest period of time, compatible with the timescale required for bacterially mediated mineralization of soft tissues. All four stages of decay were encountered under all environmental conditions, matching the spectrum of preservational qualities encountered in all fossil embryo assemblages. The preservation potential of embryos of deuterostomes and lophotrochozoans is at odds with the lack of such embryos in the fossil record. Rather, the fossil record of embryos, as sparse as it is, is dominated by forms interpreted as ecdysozoans, cnidarians, and stem-metazoans. The dearth of deuterostome and lophotrochozoan embryos may be explained by the fact that ecdysozoans, at least, tend to deposit their eggs in the sediment rather than through broadcast spawning. However, fossil embryos remain very rare and the main controlling factor on their fossilization may be the unique conspiracy of environmental conditions at a couple of sites. The preponderance of fossilized embryos of direct developers should not be used in evidence against the existence of indirect development at this time in animal evolutionary history.


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16 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Deposited On:22 Jan 2009 07:59
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:51
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1525-142X.2008.00242.x
Official URL:http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/119422122/PDFSTART
PubMed ID:18460095

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