On a possible evolutionary link of the stomochord of hemichordates to pharyngeal organs of chordates. Academic Article uri icon


  • As a group closely related to chordates, hemichordate acorn worms are in a key phylogenic position for addressing hypotheses of chordate origins. The stomochord of acorn worms is an anterior outgrowth of the pharynx endoderm into the proboscis. In 1886 Bateson proposed homology of this organ to the chordate notochord, crowning this animal group "hemichordates." Although this proposal has been debated for over a century, the question still remains unresolved. Here we review recent progress related to this question. First, the developmental mode of the stomochord completely differs from that of the notochord. Second, comparison of expression profiles of genes including Brachyury, a key regulator of notochord formation in chordates, does not support the stomochord/notochord homology. Third, FoxE that is expressed in the stomochord-forming region in acorn worm juveniles is expressed in the club-shaped gland and in the endostyle of amphioxus, in the endostyle of ascidians, and in the thyroid gland of vertebrates. Based on these findings, together with the anterior endodermal location of the stomochord, we propose that the stomochord has evolutionary relatedness to chordate organs deriving from the anterior pharynx rather than to the notochord.

publication date

  • December 2014