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J Morphol. 2007 May;268(5):423-41.

Osteology and myology of the wing of the Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), and its bearing on the evolution of vestigial structures.

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  • 1Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2K6. erin.maxwell@mcgill.ca

Abstract

Emus have reduced their wing skeleton to only a single functional digit, but the myological changes associated with this reduction have never been properly described. Moreover, the intraspecific variability associated with these changes has not previously been examined, dissections having been restricted in the past to only one or two individuals. In this paper, the myology and osteology of the Emu wing is described for a sample of five female birds. The Emu showed a marked reduction in the number of muscles in the wing, even compared with other ratites. Many wing muscles showed diversity in structure, origin and insertion sites, number of heads, as well as presence-absence variation. This variability dramatically exceeds that found in flying birds. Evolutionary theory predicts that relaxed selection on vestigial organs should allow more variation to persist in the population, and corresponds to what is observed here. A large amount of fluctuating asymmetry was also detected, indicating reduced canalization of the wing during development.

(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

PMID:
17390336
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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