Convergent evolution of optic lobe neuropil in Pancrustacea

Nicholas J. Strausfeld, Briana Olea-Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


A prevailing opinion since 1926 has been that optic lobe organization in malacostracan crustaceans and insects reflects a corresponding organization in their common ancestor. Support for this refers to malacostracans and insects both possessing three, in some instances four, nested retinotopic neuropils beneath their compound eyes. Historically, the rationale for claiming homology of malacostracan and insect optic lobes referred to those commonalities, and to comparable arrangements of neurons. However, recent molecular phylogenetics has firmly established that Malacostraca belong to Multicrustacea, whereas Hexapoda and its related taxa Cephalocarida, Branchiopoda, and Remipedia belong to the phyletically distinct clade Allotriocarida. Insects are more closely related to remipedes than are either to malacostracans. Reconciling neuroanatomy with molecular phylogenies has been complicated by studies showing that the midbrains of remipedes share many attributes with the midbrains of malacostracans. Here we review the organization of the optic lobes in Malacostraca and Insecta to inquire which of their characters correspond genealogically across Pancrustacea and which characters do not. We demonstrate that neuroanatomical characters pertaining to the third optic lobe neuropil, called the lobula complex, may indicate convergent evolution. Distinctions of the malacostracan and insect lobula complexes are sufficient to align neuroanatomical descriptions of the pancrustacean optic lobes within the constraints of molecular-based phylogenies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101040
JournalArthropod Structure and Development
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Convergence
  • Divergence
  • Ground pattern
  • Optic lobe
  • Pancrustacea
  • Phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Insect Science


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