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J Morphol. 2010 Jul;271(7):814-25. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10836.

Development of the cypriniform protrusible jaw complex in Danio rerio: constructional insights for evolution.

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Department of Biological Sciences, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA.


Studies on the evolution of complex biological systems are difficult because the construction of these traits cannot be observed during the course of evolution. Complex traits are defined as consisting of multiple elements, often of differing embryological origins, with multiple linkages integrated to form a single functional unit. An example of a complex system is the cypriniform oral jaw apparatus. Cypriniform fishes possess an upper jaw characterized by premaxillary protrusion during feeding. Cypriniforms effect protrusion via the kinethmoid, a synapomorphy for the order. The kinethmoid is a sesamoid ossification suspended by ligaments attaching to the premaxillae, maxillae, palatines, and neurocranium. Upon mouth opening, the kinethmoid rotates as the premaxillae move anteriorly. Along with bony and ligamentous elements, there are three divisions of the adductor mandibulae that render this system functional. It is unclear how cypriniform jaws evolved because although the evolution of sesamoid elements is common, the incorporation of the kinethmoid into the protrusible jaw results in a function that is atypical for sesamoids. Developmental studies can show how biological systems are assembled within individuals and offer clues about how traits might have been constructed during evolution. We investigated the development of the protrusible upper jaw in zebrafish to generate hypotheses regarding the evolution of this character. Early in development, the adductor mandibulae arises as a single unit. The muscle divides after ossification of the maxillae, on which the A1 division will ultimately insert. A cartilaginous kinethmoid first develops within the intermaxillary ligament; it later ossifies at points of ligamentous attachment. We combine our structural developmental data with published kinematic data at key developmental stages and discuss potential functional advantages in possessing even the earliest stages of a system for protrusion.

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