The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50: 589 - 599 (2006)

Vol 50, Issue 7

Mesodermal anatomies in cnidarian polyps and medusae

Review | Published: 1 August 2006

Katja Seipel and Volker Schmid*

Institute of Zoology, University of Basel, Biocenter/Pharmacenter, Basel, Switzerland


The cellular and developmental analysis of evolutionary-conserved genes directing bilaterian mesodermal and myogenic cell fate previously identified the hydromedusan entocodon and its differentiation product, the striated muscle, as mesodermal derivatives. In view of these findings we presented a hypothesis disputing the diploblast classification of cnidarians without providing further explanations for the apparent diploblasty of the polyp stage and the formation of the subepidermal striated muscle in those Medusozoa lacking the entocodon nodule (Seipel and Schmid, 2005). Hence we carried out a systematic review of the histological and experimental evidence for mesodermal differentiations in cnidarians. In anthozoan and scyphozoan but not in hydrozoan polyps the presumptive mesodermal elements include amoeboid cells, the mesentery retractor muscles and scleroblasts, all of which are embedded or deeply rooted in the extracellular matrix (mesoglea) and derive from the ectoblastemal cells invading the extracellular matrix from the gastrulation site during or shortly after endoderm formation. These data lend further support to the cnidarian mesodermate hypothesis, whereby cnidarians and bilaterians share a common triploblast ancestor, the Urtriploblast, a small, motile, possibly medusa-like organism that did not feature a sessile polyp stage in its life cycle. As a consequence the diploblasty of the hydrozoan polyps may represent a derived morphology resulting from heterochronic modulations of the gastrulation process after endoderm formation.


Bilateria, Cnidaria, diploblast, mesoderm, medusa, triploblast, Urtriploblast

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