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Concept: Animal anatomy


Razanandrongobe sakalavae Maganuco, Dal Sasso & Pasini, 2006 is a large predatory archosaur from the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian) of the Mahajanga Basin, NW Madagascar. It was diagnosed on the basis of teeth and a fragmentary maxilla, but its affinities were uncertain. Here we describe new cranial remains (above all, an almost complete right premaxilla and a caudally incomplete left dentary) that greatly improve our knowledge on this enigmatic species and reveal its anatomy to be crocodylomorph. The right premaxilla indicates that the rostrum was deep, wide, and not pointed; it bears five teeth that are sub-vertical and just slightly curved lingually; the mesial teeth are U-shaped in cross-section and have serrated carinae on the lingual side; the aperturae nasi osseae (external bony nares) are confluent and face rostrally; and there is no lateral groove at the premaxillomaxillary suture for reception of a hypertrophied lower caniniform tooth. The preserved portion of the left dentary has an edentulous tip and bears eight large mandibular teeth of which the mesial (1-3) are the largest, but none is a hypertrophied caniniform tooth; the mandibular (dentary) symphysis extends caudally to the level of the third tooth; the splenial is not preserved, but its sutural marks on the dentary indicate that it contributed to the mandibular symphysis for at least 20% of the symphyseal length in dorsal aspect. On the basis of this new data, some previously uncertain features of the holotype maxilla-such as the margin of the suborbital fenestra, the contact surfaces for the palatine, the ectopterygoid, and the jugal-are now apparent. Testing of the phylogenetic position of the species within Crocodylomorpha indicates that R. sakalavae is a mesoeucrocodylian. It also represents one of the earliest events of exacerbated increase in body size along the evolutionary history of the group. In addition, it is by far the oldest notosuchian. A cranial reconstruction of this gigantic predator is also attempted here. The very robust jaw bones of R. sakalavae, coupled with its peculiar dentition, strongly suggest a diet that included hard tissue such as bone and tendon.

Concepts: Left-wing politics, Mandible, Teeth, Animal anatomy, Jaw, Maxilla, Symphysis menti, Symphysis


The lambeosaurine Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus has traditionally been reconstructed with an elevated, hollow, spike-like crest composed entirely of the nasal bones, although this has been disputed. Here, we provide a new reconstruction of the skull of this species based on reexamination and reinterpretation of the morphology and articular relationships of the type and Paratype skulls and a fragmentary crest. We confirm the presence of a supracranial crest composed of the elevated nasal bones, but also including the premaxillae. We hypothesize that the crest is a tall, lobate, hollow structure that projects dorsally and slightly caudally a distance greater than the height of the skull along the quadrate. In our reconstruction, the nasal passage passes through the crest, but enters the skull rostral to the tubular process of the nasals, not through it. Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus is rediagnosed on the basis of a suite of cranial autapomorphies including a circumnarial fossa subdivided into three accessory fossae, prefrontal with ascending rostral process and lateral flange, nasals fused sagittally to form elongate tubular process that rises dorsally from skull roof, each nasal being expanded rostrocaudally into a rhomboid distal process, and medial processes of premaxillae at the summit of the cranial crest inserted between rhomboid processes of nasals. Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus lacks characters that are present in more derived lambeosaurines (parasaurolophins and lambeosaurins), such as rotation of the caudal margin of the crest to an acute angle with the skull roof, lateral processes of the nasals that enclose part of the intracranial cavity and participate in the formation of the walls of the common median chamber, and a smooth narial fossa lacking ridges and accessory fossae. We hypothesize that ancestrally the rostrum of lambeosaurines may have been more similar to that in Saurolophinae, and became subsequently reduced in complexity during evolution of the group.

Concepts: Snake scales, Skull, Anatomy, Anatomical terms of location, Occipital bone, Animal anatomy, Skull and Bones, Vomer


BACKGROUND: Recent studies reported on the very complex morphology of the pulp system in equine cheek teeth. The continuous production of secondary dentine leads to distinct age-related changes of the endodontic cavity. Detailed anatomical knowledge of the dental cavities in all ages is required to explain the aetiopathology of typical equine endodontic diseases. Furthermore, data on mandibular and maxillary pulp systems is in high demand to provide a basis for the development of endodontic therapies. However, until now examination of the pulp cavity has been based on either sectioned teeth or clinical computed tomography. More precise results were expected by using micro-computed tomography with a resolution of about 0.1 mm and three-dimensional reconstructions based on previous greyscale analyses and histological verification. The aim of the present study was to describe the physiological configurations of the pulp system within a wide spectrum of tooth ages. RESULTS: Maxillary teeth: All morphological constituents of the endodontic cavity were present in teeth between 4 and 16 years: Triadan 06s displayed six pulp horns and five root canals, Triadan 07-10s five pulp horns and four root canals and Triadan 11s seven pulp horns and four to six root canals. A common pulp chamber was most frequent in teeth <=5 years, but was found even in a tooth of 9 years. A large variety of pulp configurations was observed within 2.5 and 16 years post eruption, but most commonly a separation into mesial and distal pulp compartments was seen. Maxillary cheek teeth showed up to four separate pulp compartments but the frequency of two, three and four pulp compartments was not related to tooth age (P > 0.05). In Triadan 06s, pulp horn 6 was always connected to pulp horns 1 and 3 and root canal I. In Triadan 11s, pulp horns 7 and 8 were present in variable constitutions. Mandibular teeth: A common pulp chamber was present in teeth up to 15 years, but most commonly seen in teeth <=5 years. A segmented pulp system was found in 72% of the investigated teeth. Segmentation into separate mesial and distal pulp compartments was most commonly present. Pulp horn 4 coalesced either with the mesial pulp horns 1 and 3 or with the distal pulp horns 2 and 5. CONCLUSIONS: Details of the pulpar anatomy of equine cheek teeth are provided, supporting the continuous advancement in endodontic therapy. Numerous individual configurations of the pulp system were obtained in maxillary cheek teeth, but much less variability was seen in mandibular cheek teeth.

Concepts: Teeth, Tooth, Dental caries, Root canal, Endodontic therapy, Endodontics, Dentin, Animal anatomy


Autotomy, the voluntary shedding or detachment of a body part at a determined cleavage plane, is a common anti-predation defense mechanism in several animal taxa, including arthropods. Among arachnids, autotomy has been observed in harvestmen, mites, and spiders, always involving the loss of legs. Autotomy of the opisthosoma (abdomen) was recently reported in a single species of the Neotropical buthid scorpion genus Ananteris Thorell, 1891, but few details were revealed. Based on observations in the field and laboratory, examination of material in museum collections, and scanning electron microscopy, we document autotomy of the metasoma (the hind part of the opisthosoma, or ‘tail’) in fourteen species of Ananteris. Autotomy is more common in males than females, and has not been observed in juveniles. When the scorpion is held by the metasoma, it is voluntarily severed at the joints between metasomal segments I and II, II and III, or III and IV, allowing the scorpion to escape. After detachment, the severed metasoma moves (twitches) automatically, much like the severed tail of a lizard or the severed leg of a spider, and reacts to contact, even attempting to sting. The severed surface heals rapidly, scar tissue forming in five days. The lost metasomal segments and telson cannot be regenerated. Autotomy of the metasoma and telson results in permanent loss of the posterior part of the scorpion’s digestive system (the anus is situated posteriorly on metasomal segment V) and the ability to inject venom by stinging. After autotomy, scorpions do not defecate and can only capture small prey items. However, males can survive and mate successfully for up to eight months in the laboratory. In spite of diminished predation ability after autotomy, survival allows males to reproduce. Autotomy in Ananteris therefore appears to be an effective, adaptive, anti-predation escape mechanism.

Concepts: Arthropod, Predation, Arachnid, Spider, Animal anatomy, Scorpion, Chelicerata, Buthidae


Snakes are a remarkably diverse and successful group today, but their evolutionary origins are obscure. The discovery of snakes with two legs has shed light on the transition from lizards to snakes, but no snake has been described with four limbs, and the ecology of early snakes is poorly known. We describe a four-limbed snake from the Early Cretaceous (Aptian) Crato Formation of Brazil. The snake has a serpentiform body plan with an elongate trunk, short tail, and large ventral scales suggesting characteristic serpentine locomotion, yet retains small prehensile limbs. Skull and body proportions as well as reduced neural spines indicate fossorial adaptation, suggesting that snakes evolved from burrowing rather than marine ancestors. Hooked teeth, an intramandibular joint, a flexible spine capable of constricting prey, and the presence of vertebrate remains in the guts indicate that this species preyed on vertebrates and that snakes made the transition to carnivory early in their history. The structure of the limbs suggests that they were adapted for grasping, either to seize prey or as claspers during mating. Together with a diverse fauna of basal snakes from the Cretaceous of South America, Africa, and India, this snake suggests that crown Serpentes originated in Gondwana.

Concepts: Africa, Vertebra, Cretaceous, Tetrapod, Animal anatomy, Snake, Dinosaur, Carnivore


A new basal hadrosauroid dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Khok Kruat Formation of Thailand, Sirindhorna khoratensis gen. et sp. nov is described. The new taxon is based on composite skull and mandible including premaxilla, maxilla, jugal, quadrate, braincases, predentary, dentaries, surangular, and maxillary and dentary teeth. It is diagnostic by such characters as, sagittal crest extending along entire dorsal surface of the parietal and reaching the frontoparietal suture (autapomorphy), transversely straight frontoparietal suture, caudodorsally faced supraoccipital, no participation of the supraoccipital in the foramen magnum, mesiodistally wide leaf-shaped dentary tooth with primary and secondary ridges on the lingual surface of the crown, perpendicularly-erected and large coronoid process of dentary, and nonvisible antorbital fossa of the maxilla in lateral view. Phylogenetic analysis revealed S. khoratensis as among the most basal hadrosauroids. Sirindhorna khoratensis is the best-preserved iguanodontian ornithopod in Southeast Asia and sheds new light to resolve the evolution of basal hadrosauriforms.

Concepts: Mandible, Skull, Thailand, Animal anatomy, Maxilla, Dental anatomy, Isan, Nakhon Ratchasima


The intricate shaping of the facial skeleton is essential for function of the vertebrate jaw and middle ear. While much has been learned about the signaling pathways and transcription factors that control facial patterning, the downstream cellular mechanisms dictating skeletal shapes have remained unclear. Here we present genetic evidence in zebrafish that three major signaling pathways - Jagged-Notch, Endothelin1 (Edn1), and Bmp - regulate the pattern of facial cartilage and bone formation by controlling the timing of cartilage differentiation along the dorsoventral axis of the pharyngeal arches. A genomic analysis of purified facial skeletal precursors in mutant and overexpression embryos revealed a core set of differentiation genes that were commonly repressed by Jagged-Notch and induced by Edn1. Further analysis of the pre-cartilage condensation gene barx1, as well as in vivo imaging of cartilage differentiation, revealed that cartilage forms first in regions of high Edn1 and low Jagged-Notch activity. Consistent with a role of Jagged-Notch signaling in restricting cartilage differentiation, loss of Notch pathway components resulted in expanded barx1 expression in the dorsal arches, with mutation of barx1 rescuing some aspects of dorsal skeletal patterning in jag1b mutants. We also identified prrx1a and prrx1b as negative Edn1 and positive Bmp targets that function in parallel to Jagged-Notch signaling to restrict the formation of dorsal barx1+ pre-cartilage condensations. Simultaneous loss of jag1b and prrx1a/b better rescued lower facial defects of edn1 mutants than loss of either pathway alone, showing that combined overactivation of Jagged-Notch and Bmp/Prrx1 pathways contribute to the absence of cartilage differentiation in the edn1 mutant lower face. These findings support a model in which Notch-mediated restriction of cartilage differentiation, particularly in the second pharyngeal arch, helps to establish a distinct skeletal pattern in the upper face.

Concepts: DNA, Bone, Gene, Gene expression, Developmental biology, Skeletal system, Cartilage, Animal anatomy


We describe a new computer reconstruction to obtain complete anatomical information of the ecto- and endocranium from the imperfectly preserved skull of the Neanderthal Amud 1.

Concepts: Skull, Anatomical terms of location, Occipital bone, Skull roof, Animal anatomy, Craniometry


Vertebrate epithelial appendages constitute a diverse group of organs that includes integumentary structures such as reptilian scales, avian feathers and mammalian hair. Recent studies have provided new evidence for the homology of integumentary organ development throughout amniotes, despite their disparate final morphologies. These structures develop from conserved molecular signalling centres, known as epithelial placodes. It is not yet certain whether this homology extends beyond the integumentary organs of amniotes, as there is a lack of knowledge regarding their development in basal vertebrates. As the ancient sister lineage of bony vertebrates, extant chondrichthyans are well suited to testing the phylogenetic depth of this homology. Elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) possess hard, mineralised epithelial appendages called odontodes, which include teeth and dermal denticles (placoid scales). Odontodes constitute some of the oldest known vertebrate integumentary appendages, predating the origin of gnathostomes. Here, we used an emerging model shark (Scyliorhinus canicula) to test the hypothesis that denticles are homologous to other placode-derived amniote integumentary organs. To examine the conservation of putative gene regulatory network (GRN) member function, we undertook small molecule inhibition of fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signalling during caudal denticle formation.

Concepts: Biology, Fibroblast growth factor, Skin, Tetrapod, Synapsid, Animal anatomy, Shark, Dermal denticle


Whereas the predominant shapes of most animal tails are cylindrical, seahorse tails are square prisms. Seahorses use their tails as flexible grasping appendages, in spite of a rigid bony armor that fully encases their bodies. We explore the mechanics of two three-dimensional-printed models that mimic either the natural (square prism) or hypothetical (cylindrical) architecture of a seahorse tail to uncover whether or not the square geometry provides any functional advantages. Our results show that the square prism is more resilient when crushed and provides a mechanism for preserving articulatory organization upon extensive bending and twisting, as compared with its cylindrical counterpart. Thus, the square architecture is better than the circular one in the context of two integrated functions: grasping ability and crushing resistance.

Concepts: Game theory, Mathematics, Animal anatomy, Cube, Prism