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Journal: EvoDevo


BACKGROUND: Various shapes of gastropod shells have evolved ever since the Cambrian. Although theoretical analyses of morphogenesis exist, the molecular basis of shell development remains unclear. We compared expression patterns of the decapentaplegic (dpp) gene in the shell gland and mantle tissues at various developmental stages between coiled-shell and non-coiled-shell gastropods. RESULTS: We analyzed the expression patterns of dpp for the two limpets Patella vulgata and Nipponacmea fuscoviridis, and for the dextral wild-type and sinistral mutant lineage of the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. The limpets had symmetric expression patterns of dpp throughout ontogeny, whereas in the pond snail, the results indicated asymmetric and mirror image patterns between the dextral and sinistral lineages. CONCLUSION: We hypothesize that Dpp induces mantle expansion, and the presence of a left/right asymmetric gradient of the Dpp protein causes the formation of a coiled shell. Our results provide a molecular explanation for shell, coiling including new insights into expression patterns in post-embryonic development, which should aid in understanding how various shell shapes are formed and have evolved in the gastropods.

Concepts: Gene, Developmental biology, Mollusca, Gastropod shell, Snail, Gastropoda, Lymnaea stagnalis, Limpet


Extreme environmental conditions can give rise to extreme adaptations. We document growth, sexual maturation and fecundity in two species of African annual fish inhabiting temporary savanna pools.

Concepts: Fish, Vertebrate, Environmental science, Charles Darwin


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


During their evolution towards a complete life cycle on land, stem reptiles developed both an impermeable multi-layered keratinized epidermis and skin appendages (scales) providing mechanical, thermal, and chemical protection. Previous studies have demonstrated that, despite the presence of a particularly armored skin, crocodylians have exquisite mechanosensory abilities thanks to the presence of small integumentary sensory organs (ISOs) distributed on postcranial and/or cranial scales.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Organ, Skin, Anatomy, Epidermis, Keratin, Crocodile


In blind cave-dwelling populations of Astyanax mexicanus, several morphological and behavioral shifts occurred during evolution in caves characterized by total and permanent darkness. Previous studies have shown that sensory systems such as the lateral line (mechanosensory) and taste buds (chemosensory) are modified in cavefish. It has long been hypothesized that another chemosensory modality, the olfactory system, might have evolved as well to provide an additional mechanism for food-searching in troglomorphic Astyanax populations.

Concepts: Evolution, Sensory system, Sense, Olfactory bulb, Olfaction, Taste, Gustatory system, Mexican tetra


The development of male- or female-specific phenotypes in squamates is typically controlled by either temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) or chromosome-based genetic sex determination (GSD). However, while sex determination is a major switch in individual phenotypic development, it is unknownhow evolutionary transitions between GSD and TSD might impact on the evolution of squamate phenotypes, particularly the fast-evolving and diverse genitalia. Here, we take the unique opportunity of studying the impact of both sex determination mechanisms on the embryological development of the central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps). This is possible because of the transitional sex determination system of this species, in which genetically male individuals reverse sex at high incubation temperatures. This can trigger the evolutionary transition of GSD to TSD in a single generation, making P. vitticeps an ideal model organism for comparing the effects of both sex determination processes in the same species.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Human, Evolution, Biology, Sex, Sex-determination system, Central Bearded Dragon


The evolution of tetrapod limbs from paired fins has long been of interest to both evolutionary and developmental biologists. Several recent investigative tracks have converged to restructure hypotheses in this area. First, there is now general agreement that the limb skeleton is patterned by one or more Turing-type reaction-diffusion, or reaction-diffusion-adhesion, mechanism that involves the dynamical breaking of spatial symmetry. Second, experimental studies in finned vertebrates, such as catshark and zebrafish, have disclosed unexpected correspondence between the development of digits and the development of both the endoskeleton and the dermal skeleton of fins. Finally, detailed mathematical models in conjunction with analyses of the evolution of putative Turing system components have permitted formulation of scenarios for the stepwise evolutionary origin of patterning networks in the tetrapod limb. The confluence of experimental and biological physics approaches in conjunction with deepening understanding of the developmental genetics of paired fins and limbs has moved the field closer to understanding the fin-to-limb transition. We indicate challenges posed by still unresolved issues of novelty, homology, and the relation between cell differentiation and pattern formation.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Mathematics, Biology, Developmental biology, Pattern, Morphogenesis, Evolutionary developmental biology


Heterochronic shifts during mid- to late stages of organismal development have been proposed as key mechanisms generating phenotypic diversity. To determine whether late heterochronic shifts underlie derived floral morphologies within Jaltomata (Solanaceae)-a genus whose species have extensive and recently evolved floral diversity-we compared floral development of four diverse species (including an ambiguously ancestral or secondarily derived rotate, two putatively independently evolved campanulate, and a tubular morph) to the ancestral rotate floral form, as well as to an outgroup that shares this ancestral floral morphology.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Life, Species, Genus, Morphology


An important question in experimental embryology is to understand how the developmental potential responsible for the generation of distinct cell types is spatially segregated over developmental time. Classical embryological work showed that ctenophores, a group of gelatinous marine invertebrates that arose early in animal evolution, display a highly stereotyped pattern of early development and a precocious specification of blastomere fates. Here we investigate the role of autonomous cell specification and the developmental timing of two distinct ctenophore cell types (motile compound comb-plate-like cilia and light-emitting photocytes) in embryos of the lobate ctenophore, Mnemiopsis leidyi.

Concepts: Embryo, Developmental biology, Animal, Cell type, Mesoderm, Embryology, Cnidaria, Ctenophora


The life cycle of many animals includes a larval stage, which has diversified into an astonishing variety of ecological strategies. The Nemertea is a group of spiralians that exhibits a broad diversity of larval forms, including the iconic pilidium. A pelagic planktotrophic pilidium is the ancestral form in the Pilidiophora, but several lineages exhibit deviations of this condition, mostly as a transition to pelagic lecithotrophy. The most extreme case occurs, however, in the Pilidiophoran Lineus ruber, which exhibits an adelphophagic intracapsular pilidium, the so-called Schmidt’s larva.

Concepts: Insect, Developmental biology, Larva, Annelid, Lepidoptera, Bee, Mollusca, Metamorphosis