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A somitic contribution to the pectoral girdle in the axolotl revealed by long-term fate mapping
Author: Piekarski, Nadine and Olsson, Lennart
Journal: Evolution and Development
Volume: 13
Year: 2011
Pages: 47—57

The pectoral girdle is a unique skeletal element that underwent drastic morphological changes during its evolution, especially in association with the fin-to-limb transition. Comparative studies of its development are needed to gain a deeper understanding of its evolution. Transplantation experiments using the quail-chick chimeric system have revealed that not only lateral plate mesoderm but also somites contribute to the pectoral girdle in birds. Studies in mice and turtles also document somitic contributions to the pectoral girdle, but extirpation experiments in a salamander did not affect shoulder girdle development. Somitic contributions to the pectoral girdle therefore have been interpreted as a feature unique to amniotes. Here, we present a long-term fate map of single somites in the Mexican axolotl, based on transplantations of somites two to six from GFP-transgenic donors into wild-type hosts, as well as injections of fluorescein dextran into single somites. The results show a somitic derivation of the dorsal region of the suprascapula, demonstrating that somitic contributions to the pectoral girdle are not restricted to amniotes. Comparison with the few other species studied so far leads us to suggest a position-dependent origin of the pectoral girdle. We propose that embryonic origin is determined by the proximity of the developing pectoral girdle to the somites or to the lateral plate mesoderm, respectively. This position-dependent origin and the diversity of the anatomy of the pectoral girdle among vertebrates implies that the embryonic origin of the pectoral girdle is too variable to be useful for defining homologies or for phylogenetic analysis.