Skip navigation
A worm-like marine animal provides clues about human evolution

This is Science Today. A small, worm-like marine animal called an amphioxus is one of the closest living invertebrate relatives of vertebrates. Research biologist Linda Holland of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, says the vertebrate and amphioxus lineages split about 520 million years ago during the Cambrian age.

Holland:         So, this little organism has not changed very much since the Cambrian and it's this slow evolution and it's relationship to the vertebrates that makes it very important for understanding how humans, how we came from our invertebrate ancestors.

Narrator:       Holland says the amphioxus genome has been sequenced and it's been found that the human and amphioxus genomes are very much alike.

Holland:         It's going to take a number of years for people to look in greater depth at the amphioxus in human genomes, but I think in terms of figuring out what evolution has done, the amphioxus genome has really been a goldmine and will continue to be one for quite some time. 

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.