Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 743 - 750 (2014)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.140296jp
© UPV/EHU Press

Comparative analysis of pleurodiran and cryptodiran turtle embryos depicts the molecular ground pattern of the turtle carapacial ridge

Juan Pascual-Anaya*,1, Tatsuya Hirasawa1, Iori Sato1, Shigehiro Kuraku2 and Shigeru Kuratani*,1

1Evolutionary Morphology Laboratory, RIKEN and 2Phyloinformatics Unit, RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies, Kobe, Japan

ABSTRACT The turtle shell is a wonderful example of a genuine morphological novelty, since it has no counterpart in any other extant vertebrate lineages. The evolutionary origin of the shell is a question that has fascinated evolutionary biologists for over two centuries and it still remains a mystery. One of the turtle innovations associated with the shell is the carapacial ridge (CR), a bulge that appears at both sides of the dorsal lateral trunk of the turtle embryo and that probably controls the formation of the carapace, the dorsal moiety of the shell. Although from the beginning of this century modern genetic techniques have been applied to resolve the evolutionary developmental origin of the CR, the use of different models with, in principle, dissimilar results has hampered the establishment of a common mechanism for the origin of the shell. Although modern turtles are divided into two major groups, Cryptodira (or hidden-necked turtles) and Pleurodira (or side-necked turtles), molecular developmental studies have been carried out mostly using cryptodiran models. In this study, we revisit the past data obtained from cryptodiran turtles in order to reconcile the different results. We also analyze the histological anatomy and the expression pattern of main CR factors in a pleurodiran turtle, the red-bellied short-necked turtle Emydura subglobosa. We suggest that the turtle shell probably originated concomitantly with the co-option of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway into the CR in the last common ancestor of the turtle.


turtle, evolution, shell, Wnt pathway, Evo-Devo

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