A germ layer is a group of cells in an embryo that interact with each other as the embryo develops and contribute to the formation of all organs and tissues. All animals, except perhaps sponges, form two or three germ layers. The germ layers develop early in embryonic life, through the process of gastrulation. During gastrulation, a hollow cluster of cells called a blastula reorganizes into two primary germ layers: an inner layer, called endoderm, and an outer layer, called ectoderm. Diploblastic organisms have only the two primary germ layers; these organisms characteristically have multiple symmetrical body axes (radial symmetry), as is true of jellyfish, sea anemones, and the rest of the phylum Cnidaria. All other animals are triploblastic, as endoderm and ectoderm interact to produce a third germ layer, called mesoderm. Together, the three germ layers will give rise to every organ in the body, from skin and hair to the digestive tract.
All cells that have a nucleus, including plant, animal, fungal cells, and most single-celled protists, also have mitochondria. Mitochondria are particles called organelles found outside the nucleus in a cell's cytoplasm. The main function of mitochondria is to supply energy to the cell, and therefore to the organism. The theory for how mitochondria evolved, proposed by Lynn Margulis in the twentieth century, is that they were once free-living organisms. Around two billion years ago, mitochondria took up residence inside larger cells, in a process called endosymbiosis, becoming functional parts of those cells. Within each mitochondrion is the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is different from the DNA in the cell's nucleus (nDNA). Organisms inherit their mitochondria only from their mothers via egg cells (oocytes). Mitochondria contribute to the development of oocytes, the release of the oocyte from the ovary (ovulation), the union of oocyte and sperm (fertilization), all stages of embryo formation (embryogenesis), and growth of the embryo after fertilization.
From a developing embryos three primary germ layers, ectoderm (green), mesoderm (pink) and endoderm (yellow), a variety of differentiated cell types and organ systems arise, far more than are shown here. The three primary germ layers are shown during the gastrula stage because they become distinct at the gastrula stage. The germ cells (blue) are pre- cursors to sperm and egg cells, and they are set aside early in development, and are thought to arise from the ectoderm.
Illustration of the movement of the three hemispheres of cells, the animal cap (dark green) the marginal zone (lime green) and the ventral cap (yellow) during frog gastrulation. The external view column (images a.1-a.6) shows gastrulation as it occurs on the outside of the embryo. The cross-section view column (images b.1-b.6) shows the internal view of gastrulation. The cross-sections are through the middle of the embryo.
Illustration of the animal-vegetal gradient in Xenopus laevis ( African clawed frog) eggs after fertilization. During fertilization, the sperm s point of entry determines the future dorsal side (shaded) and ventral side (unshaded) of the embryo. The prospective ventral side of the embryo forms on the side where the sperm enters while the prospective dorsal side forms opposite the sperm s point of entry.