All sexually reproducing, multicellular diploid eukaryotes begin life as embryos. Understanding the stages of embryonic development is vital to explaining how eukaryotes form and how they are related on the tree of life. This understanding can also help answer questions related to morphology, ethics, medicine, and other pertinent fields of study. In particular, the field of comparative embryology is concerned with documenting the stages of ontogeny. In the nineteenth century, embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer famously noted that embryos of different species generally start out with very similar structure and diverge as they progress through development. This similarity allows for the construction of a series of detailed stages exhibited by a range of different organisms (though in reality embryonic development is a continuous, not staggered, process) describing the progression of events that begin with conception.

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