Origin of animal sensory and nervous systems: a case study in cell type evolution (2010–2012)
All animals evolved from a single-celled ancestor. Thus, the evolution of all animal cell types ultimately can be traced back to a single ancestral cell type. Here we attempt to reconstruct the evolutionary history of one of the animal kingdom's primary cells: the nerve cell. We will combine genomic, molecular, cell and developmental approaches with expertise in evolutionarily-informative model organisms to decipher the origin of the nerve cell and of its close relative, the sensory cell. In doing so, we will make a significant contribution to our understanding of one of the most momentous events in the evolution of life on Earth.