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Journal Articles Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution Year : 2023

Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers and the ascidian hypothesis


In 1830, Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire confronted each other in a famous debate on the unity of the animal kingdom, which permeated the zoology of the 19th century. From that time, a growing number of naturalists attempted to understand the large-scale relationships among animals. And among all the questions, that of the origin of vertebrates was one of the most controversial. Analytical methods based on comparative anatomy, embryology and paleontology were developed to identify convincing homologies that would reveal a logical sequence of events for the evolution of an invertebrate into the first vertebrate. Within this context, several theories have clashed on the question of the identity of the ancestor of vertebrates. Among the proposals, a group of rather discrete organisms, the ascidians, played a central role. Because he had discovered an ascidian with a particularly atypical larval development, the Molgula, Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers, a rigorous and meticulous naturalist, became involved in the ascidian hypothesis. While the visionary mind of Lacaze-Duthiers led him to establish a particularly innovative methodology and the first marine biology station in Europe, at Roscoff, the tailless tadpole of the Molgula prevented him from recognizing the ancestor of vertebrates. This old 19th century story echoes the ever-present questions driving the field of Eco-Evo-Devo.
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Dates and versions

hal-04322134 , version 1 (04-12-2023)



Catherine Jessus, Vincent Laudet. Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers and the ascidian hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution, inPress, ⟨10.1002/jez.b.23226⟩. ⟨hal-04322134⟩
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