Cephalization Process & Advantages | An Overview

Mahmud Hassan, Joanne Abramson
  • Author
    Mahmud Hassan

    Mahmud has taught science for over three years. He holds a Master's of Science from the Central University of Punjab, India. He is also an assessment developer and worked on various STEM projects.

  • Instructor
    Joanne Abramson

    Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

Understand the process of cephalization. Learn the definition of cephalization and explore its various advantages. See some examples of cephalization. Updated: 03/14/2022

Table of Contents


What is Cephalization?

Cephalization is derived from the Greek word kephale, meaning head. The head is one of the important body parts which internally have the brain and externally sense organs like the ear, nose, mouth, and eyes. During the development of an embryo, the process in which sense organs, the mouth, and nervous system concentrate towards the anterior side of the body, producing head is known as Cephalization. Cephalization can also be defined as the centralization of the nervous system and brain development. Cephalized organisms display bilateral symmetry.

Bilateral symmetry in a butterfly

Photograph of a butterfly showing bilateral symmetry.

The nervous system and sensory organs are present near the head, located at the front or anterior end of the animal, and the posterior end contains the tail. During the evolution of animals, progressive nervous cells growth is termed cephalization, which allows scientists to distinguish between the anterior and posterior ends of the organisms. Body parts of some of the organisms are not divided into head and trunk even they represent full cephalization, cannot be said to have a distinct head.

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  • 0:01 What Is Cephalization?
  • 1:09 Advantages of Cephalization
  • 1:29 Development of a Brain
  • 2:18 Concentration of Sense Organs
  • 3:07 Mouth Located Near…
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Cephalization Process

Several components are involved in the cephalization process including the development of a recognizable front that distinguishes the head from the tail. This differentiation led to the specialized area formation like mouth, stomach, and anus at the front, middle, and end, respectively. This process involves the concentration of sensory and feeding organs like nerve cells, mouth, and jaws at the anterior end. An organism with a well-developed head is known as highly cephalized. Cephalization is the evolutionary trend where the large concentration of neurons occurs at one end of the body in advanced animals, but the trend is always not the same. Some organisms evolutionary become advanced, but they do not go through cephalization, like starfish.


Photograph of a starfish in a sand in costal area.

Cephalization Advantages

Advantages of cephalization include:

  • Development of nervous system and intelligence.
  • Concentration of senses that help an organism to respond more quickly.
  • Helps involuntary movement that allows animals to find prey and avoid threats.
  • Divides the body into different parts, and each part is specialized to perform different actions.

Development of a Brain

The development of a complex brain is one of the advantages of cephalization, which allows organisms to survive in better and smarter ways. The brain organizes and controls sensory information by acting as a control center. Over time, the complex neural system evolved, and intelligence developed. The concentration of nerve cells in the brain coordinates the sensory organs and controls all the complex functioning of the whole body. The large brain better controls the specialized organs with greater efficiency. Cephalization and bilateral symmetry allow the organism to develop a digestive system comprised of the mouth at the anterior end and anus at the posterior end. These features enable animals to live smartly and help them move to avoid hunters.

Concentration of Sense Organs

Sensory organs are concentrated at the anterior end, which helps the organism scan its environment efficiently, locate shelter and food, and avoid danger. In cephalized organisms, sensory organs are the first to come in contact with the environment.

Location of the Mouth

The cephalization process places the mouth closer to the brain and sensory organs that help the organism search for food sources more quickly. Predators use sensory organs near the mouth to gather information related to prey.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What organisms have cephalization?

There are three significant groups having cephalization. They are vertebrates (humans, birds, reptiles, etc.), arthropods (ants and spiders, etc.), and cephalopods (like octopuses and squids, etc.).

What is cephalization, and why is it important?

During the development of an embryo, the process in which sense organs, the mouth, and nervous system concentrate towards the anterior side of the body, producing the head, is called Cephalization. This process is essential because it allows the organisms to make a speedy response.

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