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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2002 Sep;24(3):345-57.

Current advances in the phylogenetic reconstruction of metazoan evolution. A new paradigm for the Cambrian explosion?

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Museum of Comparative Zoology, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 16 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The study of metazoan evolution has fascinated biologists for centuries, and it will certainly keep doing so. Recent interest on the origin of metazoan body plans, early metazoan evolution, genetic mechanisms generating disparity and diversity, molecular clock information, paleontology, and biogeochemistry is contributing to a better understanding of the current phyletic diversity. Unfortunately, the pattern of the metazoan tree of life still shows some important gaps in knowledge. It is the aim of this article to review some of the most important issues related to the inference of the metazoan tree, and point towards possible ways of solving certain obscure aspects in the history of animal evolution. A new hypothesis of the metazoan diversification during the Cambrian explosion is proposed by synthesizing ideas from phylogenetics, molecular evolution, paleontology, and developmental biology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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