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Evol Dev. 2008 Mar-Apr;10(2):217-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2008.00229.x.

Phylogenetic, functional, and structural components of variation in bone growth rate of amniotes.

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UPMC Univ Paris 6 UMR CNRS 7179, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 2 pl Jussieu, Case 7077, 75005 Paris, France.


The biological features observed in every living organism are the outcome of three sets of factors: historical (inherited by homology), functional (biological adaptation), and structural (properties inherent to the materials with which organs are constructed, and the morphogenetic rules by which they grow). Integrating them should bring satisfactory causal explanations of empirical data. However, little progress has been accomplished in practice toward this goal, because a methodologically efficient tool was lacking. Here we use a new statistical method of variation partitioning to analyze bone growth in amniotes. (1) Historical component. The variation of bone growth rates contains a significant phylogenetic signal, suggesting that the observed patterns are partly the outcome of shared ancestry. (2) Functional causation. High growth rates, although energy costly, may be adaptive (i.e., they may increase survival rates) in taxa showing short growth periods (e.g., birds). In ectothermic amniotes, low resting metabolic rates may limit the maximum possible growth rates. (3) Structural constraint. Whereas soft tissues grow through a multiplicative process, growth of mineralized tissues is accretionary (additive, i.e., mineralization fronts occur only at free surfaces). Bone growth of many amniotes partially circumvents this constraint: it is achieved not only at the external surface of the bone shaft, but also within cavities included in the bone cortex as it grows centrifugally. Our approach contributes to the unification of historicism, functionalism, and structuralism toward a more integrated evolutionary biology.

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