Neural Crest and the Origin of Vertebrates: A New Head

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Science  15 Apr 1983:
Vol. 220, Issue 4594, pp. 268-273
DOI: 10.1126/science.220.4594.268


Most of the morphological and functional differences between vertebrates and other chordates occur in the head and are derived embryologically from muscularized hypomere, neural crest, and epidermal (neurogenic) placodes. In the head, the neural crest functions as mesoderm and forms connective, skeletal, and muscular tissue. Both the neural crest and the epidermal placodes form special sense organs and other neural structures. These structures may be homologous to portions of the epidermal nerve plexus of protochordates. The transition to vertebrates apparently was associated with a shift from a passive to an active mode of predation, so that many of the features occurring only in vertebrates became concentrated in the head.

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