An embryological perspective on the early arthropod fossil record Evolutionary developmental biology and morphology

Ariel D. Chipman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Our understanding of the early evolution of the arthropod body plan has recently improved significantly through advances in phylogeny and developmental biology and through new interpretations of the fossil record. However, there has been limited effort to synthesize data from these different sources. Bringing an embryological perspective into the fossil record is a useful way to integrate knowledge from different disciplines into a single coherent view of arthropod evolution. Results: I have used current knowledge on the development of extant arthropods, together with published descriptions of fossils, to reconstruct the germband stages of a series of key taxa leading from the arthropod lower stem group to crown group taxa. These reconstruction highlight the main evolutionary transitions that have occurred during early arthropod evolution, provide new insights into the types of mechanisms that could have been active and suggest new questions and research directions. Conclusions: The reconstructions suggest several novel homology hypotheses - e.g. the lower stem group head shield and head capsules in the crown group are all hypothesized to derive from the embryonic head lobes. The homology of anterior segments in different groups is resolved consistently. The transition between "lower-stem" and "upper-stem" arthropods is highlighted as a major transition with a concentration of novelties and innovations, suggesting a gap in the fossil record. A close relationship between chelicerates and megacheirans is supported by the embryonic reconstructions, and I suggest that the depth of the mandibulate-chelicerate split should be reexamined.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number285
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 18 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Chipman.


  • Arthropods
  • Cambrian Explosion
  • Embryology
  • Evo-devo
  • Germband
  • Paleontology


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