The Bilateria/ˌbaɪləˈtɪəriə/, bilaterians, or triploblasts, are animals with bilateral symmetry, i.e., they have a head (anterior) and a tail (posterior) as well as a back (dorsal) and a belly (ventral); therefore they also have a left side and a right side.
Idealised bilaterian body plan. With a cylindrical body and a direction of movement the animal has head and tail ends. Sense organs and mouth form the basis of the head. Opposed circular and longitudinal muscles enable peristaltic motion.
The typical bilaterian body can be imagined as a cylindrical form, with a gut running between two openings, the mouth and the anus. Around the gut it has an internal body cavity, a coelom or pseudocoelom.[a] Animals with this bilaterally symmetric body plan have a head ("anterior") and a tail ("posterior") as well as a back ("dorsal") and a belly ("ventral"); therefore they also have a left side and a right side.
Having a front end means that this part of the body encounters stimuli, such as food, favouring cephalisation, the development of a head with sense organs and a mouth. The body stretches back from the head, and many bilaterians have a combination of circular muscles that constrict the body, making it longer, and an opposing set of longitudinal muscles, that shorten the body; these enable soft-bodied animals with a hydrostatic skeleton to move by peristalsis. They also have a gut that extends through the basically cylindrical body from mouth to anus. Many bilaterian phyla have primary larvae which swim with cilia and have an apical organ containing sensory cells. However, there are exceptions to each of these characteristics; for example, adult echinoderms are radially symmetric (unlike their larvae), and certain parasitic worms have extremely simplified body structures.
The hypothetical most recent common ancestor of all bilateria is termed the "Urbilaterian". The nature of the first bilaterian is a matter of debate. One side suggests that acoelomates gave rise to the other groups (planuloid-aceloid hypothesis by Ludwig von Graff, Elie Metchnikoff, Libbie Hyman, or Luitfried von Salvini-Plawen (nl)), while the other poses that the first bilaterian was a coelomate organism and the main acoelomate phyla (flatworms and gastrotrichs) have lost body cavities secondarily (the Archicoelomata hypothesis and its variations such as the Gastrea by Haeckel or Sedgwick, the Bilaterosgastrea by Gösta Jägersten (sv.), or the Trochaea by Nielsen).
The first evidence of bilateria in the fossil record comes from trace fossils in Ediacaran sediments, and the first bona fide bilaterian fossil is Kimberella, dating to 555 million years ago. Earlier fossils are controversial; the fossil Vernanimalcula may be the earliest known bilaterian, but may also represent an infilled bubble.Fossil embryos are known from around the time of Vernanimalcula (580 million years ago), but none of these have bilaterian affinities. Burrows believed to have been created by bilaterian life forms have been found in the Tacuarí Formation of Uruguay, and are believed to be at least 585 million years old.
A modern (2011) consensus phylogenetic tree for Bilateria is shown below, although the positions of certain clades are still controversial and the tree has changed considerably between 2000 and 2010. It is indicated when approximately clades radiated into newer clades in millions of years ago (Mya).
^Hagadorn, J. W.; Xiao, S.; Donoghue, P. C. J.; Bengtson, S.; Gostling, N. J.; Pawlowska, M.; Raff, E. C.; Raff, R. A.; Turner, F. R.; Chongyu, Y.; Zhou, C.; Yuan, X.; McFeely, M. B.; Stampanoni, M.; Nealson, K. H. (13 October 2006). "Cellular and Subcellular Structure of Neoproterozoic Animal Embryos". Science. 314 (5797): 291–294. Bibcode:2006Sci...314..291H. doi:10.1126/science.1133129. PMID17038620.
^Pecoits, E.; Konhauser, K. O.; Aubet, N. R.; Heaman, L. M.; Veroslavsky, G.; Stern, R. A.; Gingras, M. K. (June 29, 2012). "Bilaterian burrows and grazing behavior at >585 million years ago". Science. 336 (6089): 1693–1696. Bibcode:2012Sci...336.1693P. doi:10.1126/science.1216295.
^Paps, J.; Baguna, J.; Riutort, M. (14 July 2009). "Bilaterian phylogeny: a broad sampling of 13 nuclear genes provides a new Lophotrochozoa phylogeny and supports a paraphyletic basal Acoelomorpha". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 26 (10): 2397–2406. doi:10.1093/molbev/msp150. PMID19602542.
^Papillon, Daniel; Perez, Yvan; Caubit, Xavier; Yannick Le, Parco (November 2004). "Identification of chaetognaths as protostomes is supported by the analysis of their mitochondrial genome". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 21 (11): 2122–2129. doi:10.1093/molbev/msh229. PMID15306659.