Cnidarians are generally considered to be the most primitive group of eumetazoans. They are therefore of considerable interest for comparative studies of metazoan development and evolution. The application of molecular techniques to cnidarians can provide important insights into developmental processes and phylogenetic relationships both within the phylum Cnidaria and among the eumetazoa. This paper reviews current knowledge of molecular and developmental biology of cinidarians with particular emphasis on tropical scleractinian corals and soft corals from the Great Barrier Reef region. Nucleotide sequencing of the histone gene cluster has unequivocally established that cnidarians are typical eumetazoans. Repeated sequence analysis has been applied to the staghorn corals, and implies a major divergence within this group, which corresponds with differences in sperm ultrastructure. Recent developmental studies of corals have indicated that some species have an unusual method of germ layer formation. Molecular events associated with this process, and with other important developmental stages, are currently under investigation. Other areas of current research interest, including targets for PCR-based investigations into cnidarian phylogeny, are highlighted.
Miller, DJ & Harrison, PL 1990, 'Molecular and developmental biology of the Cnidaria - basic aspects and phylogenetic implications', Australian Journal of Biotechnology, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 245-253.