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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 30, 1994; 91(18): 8363–8367.

Number, identity, and sequence of the Drosophila head segments as revealed by neural elements and their deletion patterns in mutants.


The development of the insect head tagma involves massive rearrangements and secondary fusions of segment anlagen during embryogenesis. Due to the lack of reliable morphological markers, the number, identity, and sequence of the head segments, particularly in the pregnathal region, are still a matter of ongoing debates. We examined the complex array of internal structures of the embryonic Drosophila melanogaster head such as the sensory structures and nerves of the peripheral and stomatogastric nervous systems, and we used embryonic head mutations causing a lack of overlapping segment anlagen to unravel the segmental identity and the sequence of the neural elements. Our results provide evidence for seven distinct segments in the Drosophila head, each characterized by a specific set of sensory neurons, consistent with the proposal that insects, myriapods, and crustaceans share a monophyletic evolutionary tree from a common annelid-like ancestor.

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