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Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Aug 7;273(1596):1857-66.

Arthropod phylogeny: onychophoran brain organization suggests an archaic relationship with a chelicerate stem lineage.

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  • 1Division of Neurobiology and The Center for Insect Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


Neuroanatomical studies have demonstrated that the architecture and organization among neuropils are highly conserved within any order of arthropods. The shapes of nerve cells and their neuropilar arrangements provide robust characters for phylogenetic analyses. Such analyses so far have agreed with molecular phylogenies in demonstrating that entomostracans+malacostracans belong to a clade (Tetraconata) that includes the hexapods. However, relationships among what are considered to be paraphyletic groups or among the stem arthropods have not yet been satisfactorily resolved. The present parsimony analyses of independent neuroarchitectural characters from 27 arthropods and lobopods demonstrate relationships that are congruent with phylogenies derived from molecular studies, except for the status of the Onychophora. The present account describes the brain of the onychophoran Euperipatoides rowelli, demonstrating that the structure and arrangements of its neurons, cerebral neuropils and sensory centres are distinct from arrangements in the brains of mandibulates. Neuroanatomical evidence suggests that the organization of the onychophoran brain is similar to that of the brains of chelicerates.

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