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J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 2004 May 15;302(3):241-67.

The anthropoid postcranial axial skeleton: comments on development, variation, and evolution.

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Program in Biological Anthropology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


Within-species phenotypic variation is the raw material on which natural selection acts to shape evolutionary change, and understanding more about the developmental genetics of intraspecific as well as interspecific phenotypic variation is an important component of the Evo-Devo agenda. The axial skeleton is a useful system to analyze from such a perspective. Its development is increasingly well understood, and between-species differences in functionally important developmental parameters are well documented. I present data on intraspecific variation in the axial postcranial skeleton of some Primates, including hominoids (apes and humans). Hominoid species are particularly valuable, because counts of total numbers of vertebrae, and hence original somite numbers, are available for large samples. Evolutionary changes in the axial skeleton of various primate lineages, including bipedal humans, are reviewed, and hypotheses presented to explain the changes in terms of developmental genetics. Further relevant experiments on model organisms are suggested in order to explore more fully the differences in developmental processes between primate species, and hence to test these hypotheses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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