The bilateria (pronounced /ˌbaɪləˈtɪəriə/) are all animals having a bilateral symmetry, i.e. they have a front and a back end, as well as an upside and downside. Radially symmetrical animals like jellyfish have a topside and downside, but no front and back. The bilateralia are a subregnum (a major group) of animals, including the majority of phyla; the most notable exceptions are the sponges, belonging to Parazoa, and cnidarians belonging to Radiata. For the most part, Bilateria have bodies that develop from three different germ layers, called the endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm. From this they are called triploblastic. Nearly all are bilaterally symmetrical, or approximately so. The most notable exception is the echinoderms, which achieve near-radial symmetry as adults, but are bilaterally symmetrical as larvae.
Except for a few highly reduced forms, the Bilateria have complete digestive tracts with separate mouth and anus. Most Bilateria also have a type of internal body cavity, called a coelom. It was previously thought that acoelomates gave rise to the other group, but there is some evidence now that in the main acoelomate phyla (flatworms and gastrotrichs) the absence could be secondary.
The hypothetical last common ancestor of all bilateria is termed the "Urbilaterian". There is some debate about its appearance. 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.
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