Cephalization in zoology refers to the evolutionary trend of concentrating nervous tissue, the mouth, and sense organs toward the front end of an animal. Fully cephalized organisms have a head and brain, whereas less cephalized animals have one or more nervous tissue regions. Cephalization is associated with bilateral symmetry and forward head movement.
Bilateria: Cephalization is a distinguishing feature of the Bilateria, a large group that includes the vast majority of animal phyla. These have the capacity to move using muscles and a body plan with a front end that encounters stimuli first as the animal begins to move and has evolved to contain many of the body's sense organs, able to detect light, chemicals, and sometimes sound. A collection of nerve fibres capable of processing information from these sense organs is often present, forming a brain in some phyla and one or more ganglia in others.
Acoela: The Acoela are a type of basal bilaterian that belongs to the Xenacoelomorpha. They are small and simple animals with slightly more nerve cells at the head end than anywhere else, resulting in the absence of a unique and compact brain. This is a very early stage of cephalization.
Flatworms: Platyhelminthes (flatworms) have a more complex nervous system than Acoela and are lightly cephalized, with an eyespot above the brain near the front end, for example.
Advantages in Cephalization Animals
Cephalization provides three benefits to an organism-
For starters, it promotes brain development. The brain serves as a command and control centre for organising and controlling sensory information. Animals can evolve complex neural systems and higher intelligence over time.
The second benefit of cephalization is that sense organs can be concentrated in the front of the body. This allows a forward-facing organism to scan its environment more efficiently, allowing it to find food and shelter while avoiding predators and other dangers. As the organism moves forward, the front end of the animal senses stimuli first.
Third, cephalization moves the mouth closer to the sense organs and brain. As a result, an animal can quickly analyse food sources. Predators frequently use special sense organs near the oral cavity to gather information about prey when vision and hearing are insufficient. Cats, for example, have vibrissae (whiskers) that detect prey in the dark and when it is too close to see.
Sharks have ampullae of Lorenzini electroreceptors that allow them to map prey location.
Examples of Cephalization in Animals
Vertebrates, arthropods, and cephalopod molluscs are three groups of animals with a high degree of cephalization.
Humans, snakes, and birds are examples of vertebrates. Lobsters, ants, and spiders are examples of arthropods. Octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish are examples of cephalopods.
These three groups of animals have bilateral symmetry, forward movement, and well-developed brains. These three groups of species are thought to be the most intelligent on the planet.
Many more animals do not have true brains but do have cerebral ganglia. While the "head" is less clearly defined, the creature's front and back are easy to identify. The sense organs or sensory tissue, as well as the mouth or oral cavity, are located near the front. The cluster of nervous tissue, sense organs, and mouth moves to the front as a result of locomotion. While these animals' nervous systems are less centralised, associative learning still occurs. Organisms with a lower degree of cephalization include snails, flatworms, and nematodes.
Animals Without Cephalization
Cephalization does not benefit free-floating or sessile organisms. Radial symmetry is found in many aquatic species.
Echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers) and cnidarians are two examples (corals, anemones, jellyfish). Animals that can't move or are affected by currents must be able to find food and defend themselves against threats coming from all directions. The majority of introductory textbooks classify these animals as acephalic or lacking cephalization.
While none of these creatures has a brain or central nervous system, their neural tissue is organised in such a way that they can experience rapid muscular excitation and sensory processing. Nerve nets have been discovered in these creatures by modern invertebrate zoologists.
Cephalization in Arthropods
Cephalization progressed in arthropods with increasing incorporation of trunk segments into the head region. This was beneficial because it allowed for the evolution of more efficient mouth-parts for capturing and processing food.
Insect brains are strongly cephalized, with three fused ganglia attached to the ventral nerve cord, which has a pair of ganglia in each segment of the thorax and abdomen. The insect head is a complex structure composed of several segments that are rigidly fused together and equipped with both simple and compound eyes, as well as multiple appendages such as sensory antennae and complex mouthparts (maxillae and mandibles).
Planarians (Class Turbellaria), tapeworms (Class Cestoda), and flukes are all members of the Phylum Platyhelminthes (flatworms) (Class Trematoda). Planarians are free-living flatworms that are completely harmless. They live in water (freshwater or saltwater) or on moist soil. Tapeworms and flukes are both internal parasites that live in the tissues, cavities in body organs, or blood vessels of their hosts.
Animals in the Phylum Platyhelminthes have bilateral symmetry, as opposed to those in the Phylum Cnidaria, which have radial symmetry. This implies that there is only one plane of symmetry (one way you can slice the animal in half and produce two pieces that are mirror images of one another).
It also means that you can tell the difference between the animal's anterior and posterior, right and left, and dorsal and ventral halves. A bilaterally symmetrical animal moves forward with its anterior and crawls on its ventral surface with its dorsal surface upward.
Members of the Phylum Platyhelminthes (particularly planarians, Class Turbellaria) have brain and sense organs in front of the animal. This is known as cephalization. The sense organs are the first to make contact with the environment in cephalized animals.
Molluscs are another group that has lost and regained cephalization. Bivalves, for example, are not particularly cephalized (although some scientists have argued that they are "all head"). Certain molluscs, like the echinoderms, regained cephalization. The appropriately named cephalopods (the group that includes the squid and octopus) are distinguished by a high degree of cephalization. Their sense organs, which include well-developed eyes and a brain, are concentrated in a specific head region.