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J Anat. 2010 Apr;216(4):482-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2009.01200.x. Epub 2010 Jan 28.

Somitic origin of the medial border of the mammalian scapula and its homology to the avian scapula blade.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, UK.


The scapula is the main skeletal element of the pectoral girdle allowing muscular fixation of the forelimb to the axial skeleton. The vertebrate limb skeleton has traditionally been considered to develop from the lateral plate mesoderm, whereas the musculature originates from the axial somites. However, in birds, the scapular blade has been shown to develop from the somites. We investigated whether a somitic contribution was also present in the mammalian scapula. Using genetic lineage-tracing techniques, we show that the medial border of the mammalian scapula develops from somitic cells. The medial scapula border serves as the attachment site of girdle muscles (serratus anterior, rhomboidei and levator scapulae). We show that the development of these muscles is independent of the mechanism that controls the formation of all other limb muscles. We suggest that these muscles be specifically referred to as medial girdle muscles. Our results establish the avian scapular blade and medial border of the mammalian scapula as homologous structures as they share the same developmental origin.

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