Embryo Germ Layers Help

— McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Aug 29, 2011

Presence Of Germ Layers Within The Embryo

In sponges (the parazoans), there are no tissues, so the embryo does not form cell layers during its body development. In all animals except sponges, however, there are two or more germ layers – rings of cells within the embryo from which specialized tissues and organs are produced. The germ layers are created in several stages during the maturing of a zygote after fertilization (Figure 10.3).


After several cleavages (successive cell divisions by mitosis), an eight-cell stage is followed by a blastula ( BLAS -tyoo-lah), a hollow “little bladder”-like ball of cells. The central cavity within the middle of the blastula is called the blastocele ( BLAS -toh- seal).

Gastrula and Archenteron

Following the blastula is a gastrula ( GAS -true-lah). The gastrula is literally a “little stomach” ( gastrul ) or hollow ball of several layers of germ cells . It is these germ cells (or germ layers) that eventually give rise to the specialized tissues in the later embryo and, finally, the adult stages of life. The gastrula is created by an infolding of the layer of surface cells around the blastula. This infolding creates another cavity, called the archenteron ( ark - EN -ter-ahn) – the “beginning” ( arch ) form of the “intestine” ( enteron). The archenteron (like the mature intestine) is connected to the surface by an opening.

Endoderm, Ectoderm, and Mesoderm

Around the archenteron is the endoderm ( EN -doh- derm ). The endoderm is an “inner” ( endo -) “skin” ( derm ) of germ cells from which the lining of the intestine and interior of other major body cavities, eventually develops. An ectoderm ( EK -toh- derm ) – “outer” ( ecto -) “skin” – covers the surface of the embryo. The ectoderm ultimately gives rise to the skin and the central nervous systems of many types of animals. Finally, most eumetazoans have a third germ layer, the mesoderm ( ME -soh- derm ) or “middle skin,” sandwiched in between the endoderm and the ectoderm. The mesoderm forms the muscles and most other organs.

Various radiolarians besides the jellyfish – such as the hydras ( HIGH -drahs), sea anemones (ah- NEM -oh- nees ), and coral animals – lack a mesoderm. But they still have the other two germ layers, the endoderm and ectoderm, from which all of their adult tissues eventually develop.

Invertebrates As Special Animals:“Have You No Spine?” The Invertebrates: Animals without Backbones Presence Of Germ Layers Within The Embryo

Fig. 10.3 The three germ layers in the embryo. 

Practice problems for these concepts can be found at: Invertebrates Practice Test

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