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Zoological Lett. 2015 Jan 13;1:2. doi: 10.1186/s40851-014-0007-7. eCollection 2015.

Evolution of the vertebrate skeleton: morphology, embryology, and development.

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Evolutionary Morphology Laboratory, RIKEN, 2-2-3 Minatojima-minami, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0047 Japan.


Two major skeletal systems-the endoskeleton and exoskeleton-are recognized in vertebrate evolution. Here, we propose that these two systems are distinguished primarily by their relative positions, not by differences in embryonic histogenesis or cell lineage of origin. Comparative embryologic analyses have shown that both types of skeleton have changed their mode of histogenesis during evolution. Although exoskeletons were thought to arise exclusively from the neural crest, recent experiments in teleosts have shown that exoskeletons in the trunk are mesodermal in origin. The enameloid and dentine-coated postcranial exoskeleton seen in many vertebrates does not appear to represent an ancestral condition, as previously hypothesized, but rather a derived condition, in which the enameloid and dentine tissues became accreted to bones. Recent data from placoderm fossils are compatible with this scenario. In contrast, the skull contains neural crest-derived bones in its rostral part. Recent developmental studies suggest that the boundary between neural crest- and mesoderm-derived bones may not be consistent throughout evolution. Rather, the relative positions of bony elements may be conserved, and homologies of bony elements have been retained, with opportunistic changes in the mechanisms and cell lineages of development.


Development; Evolution; Homology; Skeleton; Vertebrate

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