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Hypothesis and Theory ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Physiol. | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.01268

Bodily complexity: Integrated multicellular organizations for contraction-based motility

  • 1University of the Basque Country, Spain
  • 2University of the Aegean, Greece
  • 3University of Groningen, Netherlands

Compared to other forms of multicellularity, the animal case is unique. Animals—barring some exceptions—consist of collections of cells that are connected and integrated to such an extent that these collectives act as unitary, large free-moving entities capable of sensing macroscopic properties and events. This animal configuration is so well-known that it is often taken as a natural one that ‘must’ have evolved, given environmental conditions that make large free-moving units ‘obviously’ adaptive. Here we question the seemingly evolutionary inevitableness of animals and introduce a thesis of bodily complexity: The multicellular organization characteristic for typical animals requires the integration of a multitude of intrinsic bodily features between its sensorimotor, physiological, and developmental aspects, and the related contraction-based tissue- and cellular-level events and processes. The evolutionary road towards this bodily complexity involves, we argue, various intermediate organizational steps that accompany and support the wider transition from cilia-based to contraction/muscle-based motility, and which remain insufficiently acknowledged. Here, we stress the crucial and specific role played by muscle-based and myoepithelial tissue contraction—acting as a physical platform for organizing both the multicellular transmission of mechanical forces and multicellular signaling—as key foundation of animal motility, sensing and maintenance, and development. We illustrate and discuss these bodily features in the context of the four basal animal phyla—Porifera, Ctenophores, Placozoans, and Cnidarians—that split off before the bilaterians, a supergroup that incorporates all complex animals.

Keywords: Muscle, tissue contraction, animal sensorimotor organization, Physiology, development, Epithelia, Cnidaria, animal evolution

Received: 30 Mar 2019; Accepted: 19 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Arnellos and Keijzer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Argyris Arnellos, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain,