In both vertebrates and invertebrates, odorant molecules reach the dendrites of olfactory receptor cells through an aqueous medium, which reflects the evolutionary origin of these systems in a marine environment. Important recent advances, however, have demonstrated striking interphyletic differences between the structure of vertebrate and invertebrate olfactory receptor proteins, as well as the organization of the genes encoding them. While these disparities support independent origins for odor-processing systems in craniates and protostomes (and even between the nasal and vomeronasal systems of craniates), olfactory neuropils share close neuroanatomical and physiological characters. Whereas there is a case to be made for homology among members of the two great protostome clades (the ecdysozoans and lophotrochozoans), the position of the craniates remains ambiguous.
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