Primitive versus derived traits in the developmental program of the vertebrate head: views from cyclostome developmental studies

Kuratani, S.; Ota, K.G.

Journal of Experimental Zoology. Part B Molecular and Developmental Evolution 310(4): 294-314

2008


ISSN/ISBN: 1552-5007
PMID: 17705229
DOI: 10.1002/jez.b.21190
Accession: 032954645

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Abstract
Evolution can be viewed as a series of changes in the developmental program along the phylogenetic tree. To better understand the early evolution of the vertebrate skull, we can use the embryos of the cyclostome species as models. By comparing the cyclostome developmental patterns with those of gnathostomes, it becomes possible to distinguish the primitive and derived parts of the developmental program as taxon-specific traits. These traits are often recognizable as developmental constraints that define taxa by biasing the developmental trajectories within a certain limited range, resulting in morphological homologies in adults. These developmental constraints are distributed on the phylogenetic tree like the morphological character states of adult animals and are associated with specific regions of the tree. From this perspective, we emphasize the importance of considering gene expression and embryonic anatomy as the mechanistic bases that can result in homologous or nonhomologous morphological patterns at later developmental stages. Taking the acquisition of the jaw and trabecula cranii as examples, we demonstrate that a set of embryonic features can be coupled or decoupled during evolution and development. When they are coupled, they exert an ancestral developmental constraint that results in homologous morphological patterns, and when they are decoupled, the ancestral constraints tend to be abandoned, generating a new body plan. The heterotopy behind the specification of the oral domain is an example of decoupling, based on shifted tissue interactions. We also stress the importance of "developmental burden" in determining the sequential order of changes through evolution.

Primitive versus derived traits in the developmental program of the vertebrate head: views from cyclostome developmental studies