UCL Division of Biosciences


Are we more closely related to starfish or insects?

31 March 2021

Simulation experiments show that support for Deuterostomia could be explained by systematic error.

Conditions that cause tree reconstruction errors—inadequate models, short internal branches, faster evolving genes, and unequal branch lengths—coincide with support for monophyletic deuterostomes. The branch between bilaterian and deuterostome common ancestors is, at best, very short, supporting the idea that the bilaterian ancestor may have been deuterostome-like. Our findings have important implications for the understanding of early animal evolution.