WormNet Announcement - Annelid evolution and development

Kenneth M. Halanych khalanych at whoi.edu
Tue Oct 2 16:56:38 EST 2001

 Dear Annelid folks,  

	We want to inform you about an exciting new project that has been 
funded by the National Science Foundation in the USA. This project will 
examine the evolution of segmentation through studying annelid phylogeny 
and using an "Evo-Devo" (evolution of developmental mechanisms) 
approach. This is a five-year project designed to provide the community 
with resources for additional annelid studies. Over the next couple of years, 
we will ask the community for their help and support with obtaining 
samples. We will also try to provide the community with timely updates on 
our progress.  Below is the "Project Summary" of the grant.  

WormNet: Reconstructing the early evolution of segmented annelid worms  
K. M. Halanych, M. Martindale, E. Seaver, D. McHugh, and the Joint 
Genome Institute (J. Boore, D. Rokhsar)  

Understanding metazoan phylogeny has been confounded by 
interpretations of the degree and nature of segmentation in body plans. In 
particular, the Annelida, commonly called segmented worms, has been 
central to debates on the role of segmentation in animal evolution. Recent 
evidence suggests that several non-segmented or partially segmented worm 
taxa, that were previously regarded as separate phyla, are within the 
annelid radiation. These recent results conflict with the comprehensive 
phylogenetic analyses of annelids based on morphological characters 
(Rouse and Fauchald, 1997; Rouse, 1999). Furthermore, because annelids 
are one of the most evolutionarily successful "phyla" and because they 
diversified in the late PreCambrian to early Cambrian, understanding their 
early evolutionary history is paramount to understanding the evolution of 
animal life.  	

The proposed work has two goals: 1) Genomic approaches will be used to 
reconstruct the early phylogenetic events of the "Annelida", which includes 
several previously recognized phyla, and 2) Functional genomic techniques 
will be used to characterize the developmental mechanisms employed in 
segmentation in several key lineages.  Interpreting segmentation, a 
hallmark of annelids, in the context of the phylogeny will allow novel insights 
on the role and plasticity of segmentation during animal evolution. This 
project has been called "WormNet" because it represents an 
interdisciplinary network of researchers, at four institutions, focusing on 
these goals in a manner that enhances education and outreach activities.  

	Additionally, this program is designed to jumpstart other areas of 
research in the major metazoan clade Lophotrochozoa (annelids, mollusks, 
lophophorates, and their allies). Publicly available cDNA and genomic BAC 
libraries will be produced, and data from approximately 130 completely 
sequenced mitochondrial genomes will provide needed markers for 
population genetic and systematic studies. Given that annelids are the most 
abundant and ubiquitous animal "phlyum" in the deep sea (which covers 
70% of the planet), serve as bioindicators, have a role in bioremediation, 
and include up-and-coming model organisms, the importance of 
understanding their evolution cannot be understated.      

Kenneth M. Halanych 
Biology Department 
MS 33 
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 
Woods Hole, MA 02543 


Phone: (508) 289-3565 
Fax:   (508) 457-2134 

Friday Harbor Evolution of Developmental Mechanisms Class 2001 

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