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Integr Comp Biol. 2006 Dec;46(6):655-61. doi: 10.1093/icb/icl004. Epub 2006 Jun 6.

What is metamorphosis?

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Kewalo Marine Laboratory, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA.


Metamorphosis (Gr. meta- "change" + morphe "form") as a biological process is generally attributed to a subset of animals: most famously insects and amphibians, but some fish and many marine invertebrates as well. We held a symposium at the 2006 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) annual meeting in Orlando, FL (USA) to discuss metamorphosis in a comparative context. Specifically, we considered the possibility that the term "metamorphosis" could be rightly applied to non-animals as well, including fungi, flowering plants, and some marine algae. Clearly, the answer depends upon how metamorphosis is defined. As we participants differed (sometimes quite substantially) in how we defined the term, we decided to present each of our conceptions of metamorphosis in 1 place, rather than attempting to agree on a single consensus definition. Herein we have gathered together our various definitions of metamorphosis, and offer an analysis that highlights some of the main similarities and differences among them. We present this article not only as an introduction to this symposium volume, but also as a reference tool that can be used by others interested in metamorphosis. Ultimately, we hope that this article-and the volume as a whole-will represent a springboard for further investigations into the surprisingly deep mechanistic similarities among independently evolved life cycle transitions across kingdoms.


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