Erwin, Douglas H.

The origins and the early evolution of multicellular animals required the exploitation of holozoan genomic regulatory elements and the acquisition of new regulatory tools. Comparative studies of metazoans and their relatives now allow reconstruction of the evolution of the metazoan regulatory genome, but the deep conservation of many genes has led to varied hypotheses about the morphology of early animals and the extent of developmental cooption. In this Review, I assess the emerging view that the early diversification of animals involved small organisms with diverse cell types, but largely lacking complex developmental patterning, which evolved independently in different bilaterian clades during the Cambrian Explosion.