Diverse Adaptations of an Ancestral Gill

  • Damen W
  • Saridaki T
  • Averof M
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Changing conditions of life impose new requirements on the morphology and physiology of an organism. One of these changes is the evolutionary transition from aquatic to terrestrial life, leading to adaptations in locomotion, breathing, reproduction, and mechanisms for food capture. We have shown previously that insects' wings most likely originated from one of the gills of ancestral aquatic arthropods during their transition to life on land [1]. Here we investigate the fate of these ancestral gills during the evolution of another major arthropod group, the chelicerates. We examine the expression of two developmental genes, pdm/nubbin and apterous, that participate in the specification of insects' wings and are expressed in particular crustacean epipods/gills. In the horseshoe crab, a primitively aquatic chelicerate, pdm/nubbin is specifically expressed in opisthosomal appendages that give rise to respiratory organs called book gills. In spiders (terrestrial chelicerates), pdm/nubbin and apterous are expressed in successive segmental primordia that give rise to book lungs, lateral tubular tracheae, and spinnerets, novel structures that are used by spiders to breathe on land and to spin their webs [2]. Combined with morphological and palaeontological evidence [3–9], these observations suggest that fundamentally different new organs (wings, air-breathing organs, and spinnerets) evolved from the same ancestral structure (gills) in parallel instances of terrestrialization.




Damen, W. G. M., Saridaki, T., & Averof, M. (2002). Diverse Adaptations of an Ancestral Gill. Current Biology, 12(19), 1711–1716. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0960-9822(02)01126-0

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