Musculature in sipunculan worms: ontogeny and ancestral states Academic Article uri icon


  • Molecular phylogenetics suggests that the Sipuncula fall into the Annelida, although they are morphologically very distinct and lack segmentation. To understand the evolutionary transformations from the annelid to the sipunculan body plan, it is important to reconstruct the ancestral states within the respective clades at all life history stages. Here we reconstruct the ancestral states for the head/introvert retractor muscles and the body wall musculature in the Sipuncula using Bayesian statistics. In addition, we describe the ontogenetic transformations of the two muscle systems in four sipunculan species with different developmental modes, using F-actin staining with fluorescent-labeled phalloidin in conjunction with confocal laser scanning microscopy. All four species, which have smooth body wall musculature and less than the full set of four introvert retractor muscles as adults, go through developmental stages with four retractor muscles that are eventually reduced to a lower number in the adult. The circular and sometimes the longitudinal body wall musculature are split into bands that later transform into a smooth sheath. Our ancestral state reconstructions suggest with nearly 100% probability that the ancestral sipunculan had four introvert retractor muscles, longitudinal body wall musculature in bands and circular body wall musculature arranged as a smooth sheath. Species with crawling larvae have more strongly developed body wall musculature than those with swimming larvae. To interpret our findings in the context of annelid evolution, a more solid phylogenetic framework is needed for the entire group and more data on ontogenetic transformations of annelid musculature are desirable.

author list (cited authors)

  • Schulze, A., & Rice, M. E.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • January 2009