Original Article

Development Genes and Evolution

, Volume 218, Issue 10, pp 511-524

First online:

Early development, pattern, and reorganization of the planula nervous system in Aurelia (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa)

  • Nagayasu NakanishiAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
  • , David YuanAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
  • , David K. JacobsAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
  • , Volker HartensteinAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, UCLA Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


We examined the development of the nervous system in Aurelia (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa) from the early planula to the polyp stage using confocal and transmission electron microscopy. Fluorescently labeled anti-FMRFamide, antitaurine, and antityrosinated tubulin antibodies were used to visualize the nervous system. The first detectable FMRFamide-like immunoreactivity occurs in a narrow circumferential belt toward the anterior/aboral end of the ectoderm in the early planula. As the planula matures, the FMRFamide-immunoreactive cells send horizontal processes (i.e., neurites) basally along the longitudinal axis. Neurites extend both anteriorly/aborally and posteriorly/orally, but the preference is for anterior neurite extension, and neurites converge to form a plexus at the aboral/anterior end at the base of the ectoderm. In the mature planula, a subset of cells in the apical organ at the anterior/aboral pole begins to show FMRFamide-like and taurine-like immunoreactivity, suggesting a sensory function of the apical organ. During metamorphosis, FMRFamide-like immunoreactivity diminishes in the ectoderm but begins to occur in the degenerating primary endoderm, indicating that degenerating FMRFamide-immunoreactive neurons are taken up by the primary endoderm. FMRFamide-like expression reappears in the ectoderm of the oral disc and the tentacle anlagen of the growing polyp, indicating metamorphosis-associated restructuring of the nervous system. These observations are discussed in the context of metazoan nervous system evolution.


Cnidaria Scyphozoa Neurogenesis Planula Polyp