Early animal evolution: reconstructing the last common metazoan ancestor through the analysis of developmental and structural genes in sponges (2004–2006)
All animals from the simplest invertebrates to humans arose from a common ancestor. Reconstruction of this ancestor requires the comparison of metazoan developmental genetic architectures. Here we contribute to this pursuit by studying a phylogenetically and biological appropriate metazoan system - marine sponge embryos and larvae. Using high-throughput gene profiling techniques we will analyse the developmental genetics underlying the sponge body plan. Commonalities shared between sponges and more sophisticated animals are likely to have been present in the genetic toolkit of the most ancient metazoan ancestor and as such is the genetic foundation from which all animal biodiversity arose.