Corals sit near the base of the tree of animal life – along with sea anemones, they are about as simple as a true animal gets. However, looks are misleading and our recent studies have established that corals have as many genes as mammals, and have much the same set of genes as man – nominally the pinnacle of animal evolution. Surprisingly, most of the widely studied invertebrates have fewer genes in common with man than does the humble coral. These findings have led to the idea that most ‘animal’ genes arose very early in evolution, and that genes have subsequently been lost at different rates in the various animal lineages.
Professor David Miller will discuss the evidence for ‘ancestral genetic complexity’, and its implications for animal evolution and coral biology.