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ectoderm

ectoderm, layer of cells that covers the surface of an animal embryo after the process of gastrulation has occurred. This outer layer, together with the endoderm, or inner layer, is present in all early embryos. In the development of animals of the phyla Porifera, Ctenophora, and Cnidaria, these two primary layers give rise to all the tissues and organs of the animals, a process known as diploblastic development. In higher animals, such as those of the phyla Echinodermata and Chordata, a third, middle layer, the mesoderm, is formed between the ectoderm and endoderm during gastrulation, and the process is termed triploblastic development. In most embryos, differentiation of ectodermal tissue gives rise to epidermis and its specialized structures (scales, feathers, nails, and hair); some exocrine glands (sweat and sebaceous glands); some endocrine glands (the pineal body and the pituitary gland); the nervous system; and the organs of special sense (ear and eye). In animals of some phyla, such as the Mollusca and Annelida, the fate of particular cells of the embryo is determined in the earliest stages of the fertilized egg and may even be fixed at or before fertilization.

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ectoderm

ec·to·derm / ˈektəˌdərm/ • n. Zool. & Embryology the outermost layer of cells or tissue of an embryo in early development, or the parts derived from this, which include the epidermis, nerve tissue, and nephridia. Compare with endoderm and mesoderm. DERIVATIVES: ec·to·der·mal / ˌektōˈdərməl/ adj.

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ectoderm

ectoderm (ek-toh-derm) n. the outer of the three germ layers of the early embryo. It gives rise to the nervous system and sense organs, the teeth and lining of the mouth, and the epidermis and its associated structures (hair, nails, etc.).
ectodermal adj.

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ectoderm

ectoderm In a triploblastic embryo, the outer layer of cells which eventually give rise to the epidermis, the most anterior and posterior portions of the digestive tract, and the majority of the nervous system.

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ectoderm

ectoderm The external layer of cells of the gastrula, which will develop into the epidermis and the nervous system in the adult. See also germ layers.

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