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The evolution of tendon--morphology and material properties.

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Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 321 Steinhaus Hall, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-2525, USA.


Phylogenetically, tendinous tissue first appears in the invertebrate chordate Branchiostoma as myosepta. This two-dimensional array of collagen fibers is highly organized, with fibers running along two primary axes. In hagfish the first linear tendons appear and the myosepta have developed specialized regions with unidirectional fiber orientation-a linear tendon within the flat sheet of myoseptum. Tendons react to compressive load by first forming a fibrocartilaginous pad, and under severe stress, sesamoid bones. Evidence for this ability to react to load first arises in the cartilaginous fish, here documented in a tendon from the jaw of a hard-prey crushing stingray. Sesamoid bones are common in bony fish and also in tetrapods. Tendons will also calcify under tensile loads in some groups of birds, and this reaction to load is seen in no other vertebrates. We conclude that the evolutionary history of tendon gives us insight into the use of model systems for investigating tendon biology. Using mammal and fish models may be more appropriate than avian models because of the apparent evolution of a novel reaction to tensile loads in birds.

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