Metamerism (biology)

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Earthworms are a classic example of biological homonymous metamery - the property of repeating body segments with distinct regions Minoca.earthworm.jpg
Earthworms are a classic example of biological homonymous metamery – the property of repeating body segments with distinct regions

In biology, metamerism is the phenomenon of having a linear series of body segments fundamentally similar in structure, though not all such structures are entirely alike in any single life form because some of them perform special functions. [1] In animals, metameric segments are referred to as somites or metameres. In plants, they are referred to as metamers or, more concretely, phytomers.


In animals

In animals, zoologists define metamery as a mesodermal event resulting in serial repetition of unit subdivisions of ectoderm and mesoderm products. [1] Endoderm is not involved in metamery. Segmentation is not the same concept as metamerism: segmentation can be confined only to ectodermally derived tissue, e.g., in the Cestoda tapeworms. Metamerism is far more important biologically since it results in metameres - also called somites - that play a critical role in advanced locomotion.

One can divide metamerism into two main categories:

Segments of a crayfish exhibit metamerism Crayfish (PSF) cleaned.png
Segments of a crayfish exhibit metamerism

In addition, an animal may be classified as "pseudometameric", meaning that it has clear internal metamerism but no corresponding external metamerism - as is seen, for example, in Monoplacophora.

Humans and other chordates are conspicuous examples of organisms that have metameres intimately grouped into tagmata. In the Chordata the metameres of each tagma are fused to such an extent that few repetitive features are directly visible. Intensive investigation is necessary to discern the metamerism in the tagmata of such organisms. Examples of detectable evidence of vestigially metameric structures include branchial arches and cranial nerves.

Some schemes regard the concept of metamerism as one of the four principles of construction of the human body, common to many animals, along with general bilateral symmetry (or zygomorphism), pachymerism (or tubulation), and stratification. [3] More recent schemes also include three other concepts: segmentation (conceived as different from metamerism), polarity and endocrinosity. [4]

In plants

A metamer is one of several segments that share in the construction of a shoot, or into which a shoot may be conceptually (at least) resolved. [5] In the metameristic model, a plant consists of a series of 'phytons' or phytomers, each consisting of an internode and its upper node with the attached leaf. As Asa Gray (1850) wrote: [6]

The branch, or simple stem itself, is manifestly an assemblage of similar parts, placed one above another in a continuous series, developed one from another in successive generations. Each one of these joints of stem, bearing its leaf at the apex, is a plant element; or as we term it a phyton,—a potential plant, having all the organs of vegetation, namely, stem, leaf, and in its downward development even a root, or its equivalent. This view of the composition of the plant, though by no means a new one, has not been duly appreciated. I deem it essential to a correct philosophical understanding of the plant.

Some plants, particularly grasses, demonstrate a rather clear metameric construction, but many others either lack discrete modules or their presence is more arguable. [5] Phyton theory has been criticized as an over-ingenious, academic conception which bears little relation to reality. [7] Eames (1961) concluded that "concepts of the shoot as consisting of a series of structural units have been obscured by the dominance of the stem- and leaf-theory. Anatomical units like these do not exist: the shoot is the basic unit." [8] Even so, others still consider comparative study along the length of the metameric organism to be a fundamental aspect of plant morphology. [9]

Metameric conceptions generally segment the vegetative axis into repeating units along its length, but constructs based on other divisions are possible. [5] The pipe model theory conceives of the plant (especially trees) as made up of unit pipes ('metamers'), each supporting a unit amount of photosynthetic tissue. [10] Vertical metamers are also suggested in some desert shrubs in which the stem is modified into isolated strips of xylem, each having continuity from root to shoot. [5] This may enable the plant to abscise a large part of its shoot system in response to drought, without damaging the remaining part.

In vascular plants, the shoot system differs fundamentally from the root system in that the former shows a metameric construction (repeated units of organs; stem, leaf, and inflorescence), while the latter does not. The plant embryo represents the first metamer of the shoot in spermatophytes or seed plants.

Plants (especially trees) are considered to have a 'modular construction,' a module being an axis in which the entire sequence of aerial differentiation is carried out from the initiation of the meristem to the onset of sexuality (e.g. flower or cone development) which completes its development. [5] These modules are considered to be developmental units, not necessarily structural.

See also

Related Research Articles

Developmental biology is the study of the process by which animals and plants grow and develop. Developmental biology also encompasses the biology of regeneration, asexual reproduction, metamorphosis, and the growth and differentiation of stem cells in the adult organism.

Mesoderm Middle germ layer that forms muscle, bone, blood vessels and more

In all bilaterian animals, the mesoderm is one of the three primary germ layers in the very early embryo. The other two layers are the ectoderm and endoderm, with the mesoderm as the middle layer between them.

Organ (anatomy) Collection of tissues with similar functions

An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that coexist in organ systems.

Meristem Type of plant tissue involved in cell proliferation

The meristem is a type of tissue found in plants. It consists of undifferentiated cells capable of cell division. Cells in the meristem can develop into all the other tissues and organs that occur in plants.

Frond collection of leaflets on a plant

A frond is a large, divided leaf. In both common usage and botanical nomenclature, the leaves of ferns are referred to as fronds and some botanists restrict the term to this group. Other botanists allow the term frond to also apply to the large leaves of cycads, as well as palms (Arecaceae) and various other flowering plants, such as mimosa or sumac. "Frond" is commonly used to identify a large, compound leaf, but if the term is used botanically to refer to the leaves of ferns and algae it may be applied to smaller and undivided leaves.

Segmentation in biology is the division of some animal and plant body plans into a series of repetitive segments. This article focuses on the segmentation of animal body plans, specifically using the examples of the taxa Arthropoda, Chordata, and Annelida. These three groups form segments by using a "growth zone" to direct and define the segments. While all three have a generally segmented body plan and use a growth zone, they use different mechanisms for generating this patterning. Even within these groups, different organisms have different mechanisms for segmenting the body. Segmentation of the body plan is important for allowing free movement and development of certain body parts. It also allows for regeneration in specific individuals.

Somite Each of several blocks of mesoderm that flank the neural tube on either side in embryogenesis

The somites are a set of bilaterally paired blocks of paraxial mesoderm that form in the embryonic stage of somitogenesis, along the head-to-tail axis in segmented animals. In vertebrates, somites subdivide into the sclerotomes, myotomes, syndetomes and dermatomes that give rise to the vertebrae of the vertebral column, rib cage and part of the occipital bone; skeletal muscle, cartilage, tendons, and skin.

Somitogenesis The formation of mesodermal clusters that are arranged segmentally along the anterior posterior axis of an embryo.

Somitogenesis is the process by which somites form. Somites are bilaterally paired blocks of paraxial mesoderm that form along the anterior-posterior axis of the developing embryo in segmented animals. In vertebrates, somites give rise to skeletal muscle, cartilage, tendons, endothelium, and dermis.

Stolon horizontal connections between organisms

In biology, stolons, also known as runners, are horizontal connections between organisms. They may be part of the organism, or of its skeleton; typically, animal stolons are external skeletons.

In biology, a tagma is a specialized grouping of multiple segments or metameres into a coherently functional morphological unit. Familiar examples are the head, the thorax, and the abdomen of insects. The segments within a tagma may be either fused or so jointed as to be independently moveable.

Body plan A set of morphological features common to members of a phylum of animals

A body plan, Bauplan, or ground plan is a set of morphological features common to many members of a phylum of animals. The vertebrate body plan is one of many: invertebrates consist of many phyla.

Plant morphology Part of botany

Phytomorphology is the study of the physical form and external structure of plants. This is usually considered distinct from plant anatomy, which is the study of the internal structure of plants, especially at the microscopic level. Plant morphology is useful in the visual identification of plants.

This page provides a glossary of plant morphology. Botanists and other biologists who study plant morphology use a number of different terms to classify and identify plant organs and parts that can be observed using no more than a handheld magnifying lens. This page provides help in understanding the numerous other pages describing plants by their various taxa. The accompanying page—Plant morphology—provides an overview of the science of the external form of plants. There is also an alphabetical list: Glossary of botanical terms. In contrast, this page deals with botanical terms in a systematic manner, with some illustrations, and organized by plant anatomy and function in plant physiology.

Important structures in plant development are buds, shoots, roots, leaves, and flowers; plants produce these tissues and structures throughout their life from meristems located at the tips of organs, or between mature tissues. Thus, a living plant always has embryonic tissues. By contrast, an animal embryo will very early produce all of the body parts that it will ever have in its life. When the animal is born, it has all its body parts and from that point will only grow larger and more mature.

This glossary of botanical terms is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to botany and plants in general. Terms of plant morphology are included here as well as at the more specific Glossary of plant morphology and Glossary of leaf morphology. For other related terms, see Glossary of phytopathology and List of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names.

Worm Animal that typically has a long tube-like body, no limbs, and no eyes

Worms are many different distantly related animals that typically have a long cylindrical tube-like body, no limbs, and no eyes. Worms vary in size from microscopic to over 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length for marine polychaete worms, 6.7 metres (22 ft) for the African giant earthworm, Microchaetus rappi, and 58 metres (190 ft) for the marine nemertean worm, Lineus longissimus. Various types of worm occupy a small variety of parasitic niches, living inside the bodies of other animals. Free-living worm species do not live on land, but instead, live in marine or freshwater environments, or underground by burrowing. In biology, "worm" refers to an obsolete taxon, vermes, used by Carolus Linnaeus and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck for all non-arthropod invertebrate animals, now seen to be paraphyletic. The name stems from the Old English word wyrm. Most animals called "worms" are invertebrates, but the term is also used for the amphibian caecilians and the slowworm Anguis, a legless burrowing lizard. Invertebrate animals commonly called "worms" include annelids, nematodes (roundworms), platyhelminthes (flatworms), marine nemertean worms, marine Chaetognatha, priapulid worms, and insect larvae such as grubs and maggots.

Earthworm suborder of tube-shaped, segmented annelids

An earthworm is a terrestrial invertebrate that belongs to the class Clitellata, order Oligochaeta, phylum Annelida. They exhibit a tube-within-a-tube body plan, are externally segmented with corresponding internal segmentation, and usually have setae on all segments. They occur worldwide where soil, water, and temperature allow. Earthworms are commonly found in soil, eating a wide variety of organic matter. This organic matter includes plant matter, living protozoa, rotifers, nematodes, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. An earthworm's digestive system runs the length of its body. It respires through its skin. It has a double transport system made of coelomic fluid that moves within the fluid-filled coelom and a simple, closed circulatory system. It has a central and peripheral nervous system. Its central nervous system consists of two ganglia above the mouth, one on either side, connected to a nerve running along its length to motor neurons and sensory cells in each segment. Large numbers of chemoreceptors concentrate near its mouth. Circumferential and longitudinal muscles edging each segment let the worm move. Similar sets of muscles line the gut, and their actions move digesting food toward the worm's anus.

Annelid Phylum of segmented worms

The annelids, also known as the ringed worms or segmented worms, are a large phylum, with over 22,000 extant species including ragworms, earthworms, and leeches. The species exist in and have adapted to various ecologies – some in marine environments as distinct as tidal zones and hydrothermal vents, others in fresh water, and yet others in moist terrestrial environments.

Segmentation is the physical characteristic by which the human body is divided into repeating subunits called segments arranged along a longitudinal axis. In humans, the segmentation characteristic observed in the nervous system is of biological and evolutionary significance. Segmentation is a crucial developmental process involved in the patterning and segregation of groups of cells with different features, generating regional properties for such cell groups and organizing them both within the tissues as well as along the embryonic axis.

Yilingia spiciformis was a worm-like animal that lived approximately between 551 million and 539 million years ago in the Ediacaran period, around 10 million years before the Cambrian explosion. A fossil of this creature and its tracks were discovered in 2019 in Southern China. It was a segmented bilaterian, conceivably related to panarthropods or annelids. It is a rare example of a complex Ediacaran animal that is similar to animals that existed since the Cambrian, hence suggesting that perhaps the Cambrian explosion was less sudden than often assumed.


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