People are always arguing about whether primitive apes could have evolved into men, but that one seems obvious to me: of course they did! The resemblances are simply too close, so that questioning it always seems silly. One interesting and more difficult question is how oysters could be related to squid; one's a flat, sessile blob with a hard shell, and the other is a jet-propelled active predator with eyes and tentacles. Any family resemblance is almost completely lost in their long and divergent evolutionary history (although I do notice some unity of flavor among the various molluscs, which makes me wonder if gustatory sampling hasn't received its proper due as a biochemical assay in evaluating phylogeny.)
One way to puzzle out anatomical relationships and make phylogenetic inferences is to study the embryology of the animals. Early development is often fairly well conserved, and the various parts and organization are simpler; I would argue that what's important in the evolution of complex organisms anyway is the process of multicellular assembly, and it's the rules of construction that we have to determine to identify pathways of change. Now a recent paper by Shigeno et al. traces the development of Nautilus and works out how the body plan is established, and the evolutionary pattern becomes apparent.
Continue reading "Cephalopod development and evolution" (on Pharyngula)