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Arthropod Struct Dev. 2010 Nov;39(6):453-67. doi: 10.1016/j.asd.2010.07.007.

Patterning mechanisms and morphological diversity of spider appendages and their importance for spider evolution.

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  • 1Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach-Institut für Zoologie und Anthropologie, Abteilung für Entwicklungsbiologie, GZMB Ernst-Caspari-Haus, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11, Göttingen, Germany.


The prosoma of spiders bears different gnathal (labrum, chelicerae, pedipalps) and locomotory appendages (legs). In most species these appendages are also used for additional functions, e.g. sensing, mating, and courtship. The opisthosoma is equipped with four pairs of highly specialized appendages. Two pairs of spinnerets are used for silk production and manipulation. The other two pairs of appendages are internalized during development and give rise to a complex respiratory system of book lungs and tracheae. Thus spiders have a number of different appendage types with radically different adult morphologies. Furthermore, all these appendage types display significant additional species specific diversity correlating with a large spectrum of functions of the appendages. Despite this importance of appendage diversity for the evolution of the spiders we know relatively little about the genetic patterning mechanisms producing this diversity of morphology. We review recent advances concerning the developmental genetics of spider appendage diversification, mainly concentrating on open questions and future directions of research. We conclude that the deeper understanding of appendage development and diversity in spiders can contribute significantly not only to evolutionary developmental biology, but also to behavioral biology, speciation research and population genetics, and the study of sexually dimorphic traits.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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