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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Nov 9;96(23):13247-52.

Morphological analysis of the mammalian postcranium: a developmental perspective.

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Department of Anthropology, Biological Anthropology Program, Division of Biomedical Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio 44242, USA.


The past two decades have greatly improved our knowledge of vertebrate skeletal morphogenesis. It is now clear that bony morphology lacks individual descriptive specification and instead results from an interplay between positional information assigned during early limb bud deployment and its "execution" by highly conserved cellular response programs of derived connective tissue cells (e.g., chondroblasts and osteoblasts). Selection must therefore act on positional information and its apportionment, rather than on more individuated aspects of presumptive adult morphology. We suggest a trait classification system that can help integrate these findings in both functional and phylogenetic examinations of fossil mammals and provide examples from the human fossil record.

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