i5K: Velvet Worm
Contact: Georg Mayer
Size (or size of nearest relative):
Keywords (and why important): Phylogenomics, body plan evolution, EvoDevo.
Onychophorans or "velvet worms" are close relatives of arthropods and, therefore, of pivotal importance for understanding the evolution of arthropods.
Extant onychophorans share ancestral features with the Early Cambrian lobopodians, such as unjointed limbs, simple ocellus-like eyes, and a soft body without an exoskeleton. Notably, the segmentation and regionalization of the body is also less advanced in these animals as compared to arthropods. Hence, analyzing the entire genome of the “model onychophoran” Euperipatoides rowelli will provide insights into the evolution of Panarthropoda (Onychophora, Tardigrada, and Arthropoda).
The species is easily accessible and a number of transcriptomic studies are currently in progress.
Watch a video of the velvet worm taken from the BBC's Life in the Undergrowth documentary series.
Watch a video of the velvet worm in a segment of David Attenborough's First Life series.