Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 193, Issue 10, pp 1013–1019 | Cite as

Evolutionary origin of autonomic regulation of physiological activities in vertebrate phyla

  • Hiroshi Shimizu
  • Masataka OkabeEmail author


Proper regulation of physiological activities is crucial for homeostasis in animals. Autonomic regulation of these activities is most developed in mammals, in which a part of peripheral nervous system, termed the autonomic nervous system plays the dominant role. Circulatory activity and digestive activity in vertebrates change in opposite phases to each other. The stage where circulatory activity is high and digestive activity is low is termed the “fight or flight stage” while the stage where circulatory activity is low and digestive activity is high is termed the “rest and digest stage”. It has been thought that the autonomic nervous system originated in early vertebrate phyla and developed to its greatest extent in mammals. In this study, we compared the pattern of change of circulatory and digestive activities in several invertebrates and found that the two stages seen in mammals are also present in a wide variety of animals, including evolutionarily early-diverging invertebrate taxa. From this and other arguments we propose a novel possibility that the basic properties of the autonomic nervous system were established very early in metazoan evolution.


Autonomic nervous system Heart rate Fight or flight response Sympathetic nervous system Parasympathetic nervous system 



Autonomic nervous system


Sympathetic nervous system


Parasympathetic nervous system


Central nervous system


Enteric nervous system








4-Aminobutanoic acid





The authors wish to thank Dr. H. Morishita at Hiroshima University for numerous advices and fruitful discussions about mollusks. They also wish to thank Dr. W.M. Kier at University of North Carolina and Dr. H.J. Chiel at Case Western Reserve University for providing reprints, information and encouragement. We would also like to thank Prof. R. Steele at University of California at Irvine for improving English. This research was supported by a grant from Japanese Ministry of Education to H.S (No. 60170191).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental GeneticsNational Institute of GeneticsMishimaJapan
  2. 2.Department of AnatomyThe Jikei University School of MedicineTokyoJapan

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