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Evol Dev. 2008 Nov-Dec;10(6):717-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2008.00285.x.

The chelifores of sea spiders (Arthropoda, Pycnogonida) are the appendages of the deutocerebral segment.

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  • 1Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Biologie/Vergleichende Zoologie, Philippstrasse. 13, 10115 Berlin, Germany.


Within the last decade, gene expression patterns and neuro-anatomical data have led to a new consensus concerning the long-debated association between anterior limbs and neuromeres in the arthropod head. According to this new view, the first appendage in all extant euarthropods is innervated by the second neuromere, the deutocerebrum, whereas the anterior-most head region bearing the protocerebrum lacks an appendage. This stands in contrast to the clearly protocerebrally targeted "antennae" of Onychophora and to some evidence for protocerebral limbs in fossil euarthropod representatives. Yet, the latter "frontal appendages" or "primary antennae" have most likely been reduced or lost in the lineage, leading to extant taxa. Surprisingly, a recent neuro-anatomical study on a pycnogonid challenged this evolutionary scenario, reporting a protocerebral innervation of the first appendages, the chelifores. However, this interpretation was soon after questioned by Hox gene expression data. To re-evaluate the unresolved controversy, we analyzed neuro-anatomy and neurogenesis in four pycnogonid species using immunohistochemical techniques. We clearly show the postprotocerebral innervation of the chelifores, which is resolved as the plesiomorphic condition in pycnogonids when evaluated against a recently published comprehensive phylogeny. By providing direct morphological support for the deutocerebral status of the cheliforal ganglia, we reconcile morphological and gene expression data and argue for a corresponding position between the anterior-most appendages in all extant euarthropods. Consequently, other structures have to be scrutinized to illuminate the fate of a presumptive protocerebral appendage in recent euarthropods. The labrum and the "frontal filaments" of some crustaceans are possible candidates for this approach.

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