Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 917 - 927 (2014)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.150053cr
© UPV/EHU Press

The importance of cartilage to amphibian development and evolution

Christopher S. Rose*

James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, USA

ABSTRACT The duality of amphibians is epitomized by their pharyngeal arch skeletons, the larval and adult morphologies of which enable very different feeding and breathing behaviors in aquatic and terrestrial life. To accomplish this duality, amphibian pharyngeal arch skeletons undergo two periods of patterning: embryogenesis and metamorphosis, and two periods of growth: larval and postmetamorphic. Their extreme ontogenetic variation, however, is coupled with relatively limited phylogenetic variation. I propose that amphibians face an evolutionary tradeoff between their ontogenetic and phylogenetic diversification that stems from the need to grow and transform the pharyngeal arch skeleton in cartilage rather than bone. Cartilage differs fundamentally from bone in its histology, function, development and growth. Cartilage is also the first skeletal tissue to form embryonically and provides more cellular pathways for shape change than bone. This article combines morphological, histological and experimental perspectives to explore how pharyngeal arch cartilage shape is controlled in amphibian embryogenesis, growth and metamorphosis, and how amphibian skeletal ontogenies are impacted by using cartilage to evolve a complex life cycle and in evolving away from a complex life cycle.


Amphibian, cartilage, metamorphosis, evo-devo, pharyngeal arch skeleton

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