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Invertebrate neurophylogeny: suggested terms and definitions for a neuroanatomical glossary

Stefan Richter1*, Rudi Loesel2, Günter Purschke3, Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa4, Gerhard Scholtz5, Thomas Stach6, Lars Vogt7, Andreas Wanninger8, Georg Brenneis15, Carmen Döring3, Simone Faller2, Martin Fritsch1, Peter Grobe7, Carsten M Heuer2, Sabrina Kaul6, Ole S Møller1, Carsten HG Müller9, Verena Rieger9, Birgen H Rothe4, Martin EJ Stegner1 and Steffen Harzsch9

Author Affiliations

1 Universität Rostock, Institut für Biowissenschaften, Abteilung für Allgemeine und Spezielle Zoologie, Universitätsplatz 2, D-18055 Rostock, Germany

2 RWTH Aachen, Institute of Biology II, Department of Developmental Biology and Morphology of Animals, Mies-van-der-Rohe-Straße 15, D-52056 Aachen, Germany

3 Universität Osnabrück, Fachbereich Biologie/Chemie, AG Zoologie, Barbarastraße 11,, D-49069 Osnabrück, Germany

4 Biozentrum Grindel/Zoological Museum, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 3, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany

5 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Biologie - Vergleichende Zoologie, Philippstraße 13, D-10115 Berlin, Germany

6 Freie Universität Berlin, Zoologie - Systematik und Evolutionsforschung, Königin-Luise-Straße 1-3, D-14195 Berlin, Germany

7 Universität Bonn, Institut für Evolutionsbiologie und Ökologie, An der Immenburg 1, D-53121 Bonn, Germany

8 University of Copenhagen, Department of Biology, Research Group for Comparative Zoology, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

9 Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald, Zoologisches Institut, Cytologie und Evolutionsbiologie, Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Straße 11/12, D-17487 Greifswald, Germany

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Frontiers in Zoology 2010, 7:29  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-7-29

Published: 9 November 2010



Invertebrate nervous systems are highly disparate between different taxa. This is reflected in the terminology used to describe them, which is very rich and often confusing. Even very general terms such as 'brain', 'nerve', and 'eye' have been used in various ways in the different animal groups, but no consensus on the exact meaning exists. This impedes our understanding of the architecture of the invertebrate nervous system in general and of evolutionary transformations of nervous system characters between different taxa.


We provide a glossary of invertebrate neuroanatomical terms with a precise and consistent terminology, taxon-independent and free of homology assumptions. This terminology is intended to form a basis for new morphological descriptions. A total of 47 terms are defined. Each entry consists of a definition, discouraged terms, and a background/comment section.


The use of our revised neuroanatomical terminology in any new descriptions of the anatomy of invertebrate nervous systems will improve the comparability of this organ system and its substructures between the various taxa, and finally even lead to better and more robust homology hypotheses.