Cartilage is a metazoan tissue; integrating data from nonvertebrate sources


Alison G. Cole ,Biology Department Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS Canada, B3H 4J1. E-mail:


Connective tissues are responsible for much of the variation in morphology that we see today. Cartilage is a type of connective tissue that is often considered to be restricted to vertebrates, however, cartilaginous tissues are also found within invertebrates. Unfortunately, most definitions and classification schemes for cartilages suffer from a strong vertebrate bias, severely hampering the efforts of those who have attempted to include invertebrate tissues as cartilage. To encompass all types of cartilage, current classification systems need to be expanded. Here we present vesicular cell-rich as a new cartilage classification. Invertebrate cartilages, comparable to vertebrate cartilages at both cell and tissue levels, are composed of similar molecules, yet the extent to which they may be homologous is unknown. One option for studying the evolution of tissues is to adopt molecular phylogenetic approaches. However, the paucity of published molecular data makes addressing the evolution of cartilage using molecular phylogenetic approaches unrealistic at this time. Cartilage likely evolved from a chondroid connective tissue precursor, and may have been independently derived many times. The appearance of cartilaginous tissues of unknown phylogenetic affinities in such a wide diversity of animal groups warrants further investigation.