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Embryonic muscle splitting patterns reveal homologies of amniote forelimb muscles

Cite this dataset

Smith Paredes, Daniel (2022). Embryonic muscle splitting patterns reveal homologies of amniote forelimb muscles [Dataset]. Dryad.


Limb muscles are remarkably complex and evolutionarily labile; although their anatomy is of great interest for studies of the evolution of form and function, their homologies among major amniote clades have remained obscure. Studies of adult musculature are inconclusive owing to the highly derived morphology of modern amniote limbs, but correspondences become increasingly evident earlier in ontogeny. Amniote forelimb muscles derive from early embryonic muscle masses of somitic origin, which grow and cleave into recognizable divisions that split into the individualized muscles. We followed the embryonic development of forelimb musculature in representatives of six major amniote clades and found, contrary to current consensus, that these early splitting patterns are highly conserved across Amniota. Muscle mass cleavage patterns and topology are highly conserved in reptiles including birds, irrespective of their skeletal modifications: the avian flight apparatus results from slight early topological modifications that are exaggerated during ontogeny. Therian mammals, while conservative in their cleavage patterns, depart drastically from the ancestral amniote musculoskeletal organization in terms of topology. These topological changes occur through extension, translocation, and displacement of muscle groups later in development. Overall, the simplicity underlying the apparent complexity of forelimb muscle development allows us to resolve conflicting hypotheses about homology and to trace the history of each individual forelimb muscle throughout the amniote radiations. 

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