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Elife. 2019 Jun 25;8. pii: e44455. doi: 10.7554/eLife.44455.

Elastic instability during branchial ectoderm development causes folding of the Chlamydosaurus erectile frill.

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Laboratory of Artificial & Natural Evolution (LANE), Department of Genetics & Evolution, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Geneva, Switzerland.
Contributed equally


We study the morphogenesis and evolutionary origin of the spectacular erectile ruff of the frilled dragon (Chlamydosaurus kingii). Our comparative developmental analyses of multiple species suggest that the ancestor of Episquamata reptiles developed a neck fold from the hyoid branchial arch by preventing it to fully fuse with posterior arches. We also show that the Chlamydosaurus embryonic neck fold dramatically enlarges and its anterior surface wrinkles, establishing three convex ridges on each lobe of the frill. We suggest that this robust folding pattern is not due to localised increased growth at the positions of the ridges, but emerges from an elastic instability during homogeneous growth of the frill skin frustrated by its attachment to adjacent tissues. Our physical analog experiments and 3D computational simulations, using realistic embryonic tissue growth, thickness and stiffness values, recapitulate the transition from two to three ridges observed during embryonic development of the dragon's frill.


Chamydosaurus; elastic instability; evolutionary biology; evolutionary developmental biology; frilled dragon; patterning; physics of living systems

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