During their embryogenesis, marsupials develop a unique structure, the shoulder arch, which provides the structural and muscle-attachment support necessary for the newborn's crawl to the teat. One of the most pronounced and important aspects of the shoulder arch is an enlarged coracoid. After marsupial newborns reach the teat, the shoulder arch is remodeled and the coracoid is reduced to a small process on the scapula. Although an understanding of marsupial coracoid reduction has the potential to provide insights into both, marsupial evolution and the origin of mammals, little is known about the morphological and cellular processes controlling this process. To remedy this situation, this study examined the morphological and cellular mechanisms behind coracoid reduction in the gray short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica. A quantitative, morphometric study of shoulder girdle development revealed that the coracoid is reduced in size relative to other aspects of the shoulder girdle by growing at a slower rate. Using a series of molecular assays for cell death, no evidence was found for programmed cell death playing a role in the reduction of coracoid size in marsupials (in contrast to hypotheses of previous researchers). Although it is likely the case that coracoid growth is reduced through a relatively lower rate of cellular proliferation, differences in proliferative rates in the coracoid and scapula were not great enough to be quantified using standard molecular assays.
"This raises the possibility that the process suggested by Hubler et al. (2010) for coracoid loss within mammals might explain other cases of late ossification coinciding with reduction or loss of bones (Sánchez-Villagra et al. 2008; Weisbecker and Mitgutsch 2010), but more data are needed to confirm this. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The developmental differences between marsupials, placentals, and monotremes are thought to be reflected in differing patterns of postcranial development and diversity. However, developmental polarities remain obscured by the rarity of monotreme data. Here, I present the first postcranial ossification sequences of the monotreme echidna and platypus, and compare these with published data from other mammals and amniotes. Strikingly, monotreme stylopodia (humerus, femur) ossify after the more distal zeugopodia (radius/ulna, tibia/fibula), resembling only the European mole among all amniotes assessed. European moles also share extreme humeral adaptations to rotation digging and/or swimming with monotremes, suggesting a causal relationship between adaptation and ossification heterochrony. Late femoral ossification with respect to tibia/fibula in monotremes and moles points toward developmental integration of the serially homologous fore- and hindlimb bones. Monotreme cervical ribs and coracoids ossify later than in most amniotes but are similarly timed as homologous ossifications in therians, where they are lost as independent bones. This loss may have been facilitated by a developmental delay of coracoids and cervical ribs at the base of mammals. The monotreme sequence, although highly derived, resembles placentals more than marsupials. Thus, marsupial postcranial development, and potentially related diversity constraints, may not represent the ancestral mammalian condition.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Digit reduction has occurred in parallel in many mammalian lineages. However, despite this pattern's prevalence, the developmental mechanisms underlying mammalian digit reduction remain controversial. We therefore undertook a study of digit development in the pig (Sus scrofa), a mammal with reduced first, second, and fifth digits. Our results indicate that from its earliest formation, the pig limb bud is significantly narrower than that of the model pentadactyl mammal, mouse. Furthermore, the cartilage condensations of the pig's reduced digits are noticeably smaller than those of their nonreduced counterparts from the time of their formation. In addition, growth rates of pig digits are comparable, as are the patterns of cell death in developing pig and mouse limbs. Taken together, results suggest that pig's first, second, and fifth digits are primarily reduced through evolutionary modifications in the early developmental patterning of their limbs. Results of this study, coupled with those from study of limb development in other mammals, suggest that although major developmental reorganizations (e.g., complete digit or limb loss) during early limb development may be selected against, it may be common for more subtle evolutionary modifications in limb development (e.g., changes in relative digit size) to occur at this time.
Evolution & Development 11/2011; 13(6):533-41. DOI:10.1111/j.1525-142X.2011.00509.x · 2.72 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Proper regulation of growth is essential to all stages of life, from development of the egg into an embryo to the maintenance of normal cell cycle progression in adults. However, despite growth's importance to basic biology and health, little is known about how mammalian growth is regulated. In this study, we investigated the molecular basis of the highly disparate growth of opossum fore- and hind limbs in utero. We first used a novel, opossum-specific microarray to identify several growth-related genes that are differentially expressed in opossum fore- and hind limbs of comparable developmental stages. These genes included Igf1. Given Igf1's role in the growth of other systems, we further investigated the role of Igf1 in opossum limb growth. Supporting the microarray results, RT-PCR indicated that Igf1 levels are approximately two times higher in opossum fore- than hind limbs. Consistent with this, while Igf1 transcripts were readily detectable in opossum forelimbs using whole-mount in situ hybridization, they were not detectable in opossum hind limbs. Furthermore, opossum limbs treated with exogenous Igf1 protein experienced significantly greater cellular proliferation and growth than control limbs in vitro. Taken together, results suggest that the differential expression of Igf1 in developing opossum limbs contributes to their divergent rate of growth, and the unique limb phenotype of opossum newborns. This study establishes the opossum limb as a new mammalian model system for study of organ growth.
Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B Molecular and Developmental Evolution 06/2012; 318(4):279-93. DOI:10.1002/jez.b.22444 · 2.31 Impact Factor
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