December 12, 2013

With new study, aquatic comb jelly floats into new evolutionary position

Study calls for a shift in understanding of how complex cell types evolved

In a study that compares the genomes of aquatic life forms, researchers have found evidence to shuffle the branches of the tree of life. For more than a century, scientists thought that complex cell types, like neurons and muscles, evolved only once, after simple animals that lack these cell types branched from the rest of animals on the evolutionary tree. A team of researchers from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, has provided new evidence from the genomic study of a ctenophore species - a comb jelly - that challenges this long-held view.