Do Developmental Constraints and High Integration Limit the Evolution of the Marsupial Oral Apparatus?
ABSTRACT: Developmental constraints can have significant influence on the magnitude and direction of evolutionary change, and many studies have demonstrated that these effects are manifested on macroevolutionary scales. Phenotypic integration, or the strong interactions among traits, has been similarly invoked as a major influence on morphological variation, and many studies have demonstrated that trait integration changes through ontogeny, in many cases decreasing with age. Here, we unify these perspectives in a case study of the ontogeny of the mammalian cranium, focusing on a comparison between marsupials and placentals. Marsupials are born at an extremely altricial state, requiring, in most cases, the use of the forelimbs to climb to the pouch, and, in all cases, an extended period of continuous suckling, during which most of their development occurs. Previous work has shown that marsupials are less disparate in adult cranial form than are placentals, particularly in the oral apparatus, and in forelimb ontogeny and adult morphology, presumably due to functional selection pressures on these two systems during early postnatal development. Using phenotypic trajectory analysis to quantify prenatal and early postnatal cranial ontogeny in 10 species of therian mammals, we demonstrate that this pattern of limited variation is also apparent in the development of the oral apparatus of marsupials, relative to placentals, but not in the skull more generally. Combined with the observation that marsupials show extremely high integration of the oral apparatus in early postnatal ontogeny, while other cranial regions show similar levels of integration to that observed in placentals, we suggest that high integration may compound the effects of the functional constraints for continuous suckling to ultimately limit the ontogenetic and adult disparity of the marsupial oral apparatus throughout their evolutionary history.
Project description:Studies of morphological integration provide valuable information on the correlated evolution of traits and its relationship to long-term patterns of morphological evolution. Thus far, studies of morphological integration in mammals have focused on placentals and have demonstrated that similarity in integration is broadly correlated with phylogenetic distance and dietary similarity. Detailed studies have also demonstrated a significant correlation between developmental relationships among structures and adult morphological integration. However, these studies have not yet been applied to marsupial taxa, which differ greatly from placentals in reproductive strategy and cranial development and could provide the diversity necessary to assess the relationships among phylogeny, ecology, development, and cranial integration. This study presents analyses of morphological integration in 20 species of australodelphian marsupials, and shows that phylogeny is significantly correlated with similarity of morphological integration in most clades. Size-related correlations have a significant affect on results, particularly in Peramelia, which shows a striking decrease in similarity of integration among species when size is removed. Diet is not significantly correlated with similarity of integration in any marsupial clade. These results show that marsupials differ markedly from placental mammals in the relationships of cranial integration, phylogeny, and diet, which may be related to the accelerated development of the masticatory apparatus in marsupials.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>In contrast to placental neonates, in which all cranial bones are ossified, marsupial young have only the bones of the oral region and the exoccipital ossified at birth, in order to facilitate suckling at an early stage of development. In this study, we investigated whether this heterochronic shift in the timing of cranial ossification constrains cranial disparity in marsupials relative to placentals.<h4>Methods</h4>We collected three-dimensional (3D) landmark data about the crania of a wide range of extant placentals and marsupials, and from six fossil metatherians (the clade including extant marsupials and their stem relatives), using a laser scanner and a 3D digitizer. Principal components analysis and delta variance tests were used to investigate the distribution and disparity of cranial morphology between different landmark sets (optimizing either number of landmarks or number of taxa) of the whole skull and of individual developmental or functional regions (neurocranium, viscerocranium, oral region) for extant placentals and marsupials. Marsupial and placental data was also compared based on shared ecological aspects including diet, habitat, and time of peak activity.<h4>Results</h4>We found that the extant marsupial taxa investigated here occupy a much smaller area of morphospace than the placental taxa, with a significantly (P<0.01) smaller overall variance. Inclusion of fossil taxa did not significantly increase the variance of metatherian cranial shape. Fossil forms generally plotted close to or within the realm of their extant marsupial relatives. When the disparities of cranial regions were investigated separately, significant differences between placentals and marsupials were seen for the viscerocranial and oral regions, but not for the neurocranial region.<h4>Conclusion</h4>These results support the hypothesis of developmental constraint limiting the evolution of the marsupial skull, and further suggest that the marsupial viscerocranium as a whole, rather than just the early-ossifying oral region, is developmentally constrained.
Project description:Accurate knowledge of skeletal ontogeny in extant organisms is crucial in understanding important morpho-functional systems and in enabling inferences of the ontogenetic stage of fossil specimens. However, detailed knowledge of skeletal ontogeny is lacking for most squamates, including snakes. Very few studies have discussed postnatal development in snakes, with none incorporating data from all three major ontogenetic stages-embryonic, juvenile and adult. Here, we provide the first analysis encompassing these three ontogenetic stages for any squamate, using the first complete micro-computed tomography (micro-CT)-based segmentations of any non-adult snake, based on fresh specimens of Thamnophis radix. The most significant ontogenetic changes involve the feeding apparatus, with major elongation of the tooth-bearing elements and jaw suspensorium causing a posterior shift in the jaw articulation. This shift enables macrostomy (large-gaped feeding in snakes) and occurs in T. radix via a different developmental trajectory than in most other macrostomatans, indicating that the evolution of macrostomy is more complex than previously thought. The braincase of T. radix is also evolutionarily unique among derived snakes in lacking a crista circumfenestralis, a phenomenon considered herein to represent paedomorphic retention of the embryonic condition. We thus present numerous important challenges to current paradigms regarding snake cranial evolution.
Project description:The evolution of mammalian brain size is directly linked with the evolution of the brain's unique structure and performance. Both maternal life history investment traits and basal metabolic rate (BMR) correlate with relative brain size, but current hypotheses regarding the details of these relationships are based largely on placental mammals. Using encephalization quotients, partial correlation analyses, and bivariate regressions relating brain size to maternal investment times and BMR, we provide a direct quantitative comparison of brain size evolution in marsupials and placentals, whose reproduction and metabolism differ extensively. Our results show that the misconception that marsupials are systematically smaller-brained than placentals is driven by the inclusion of one large-brained placental clade, Primates. Marsupial and placental brain size partial correlations differ in that marsupials lack a partial correlation of BMR with brain size. This contradicts hypotheses stating that the maintenance of relatively larger brains requires higher BMRs. We suggest that a positive BMR-brain size correlation is a placental trait related to the intimate physiological contact between mother and offspring during gestation. Marsupials instead achieve brain sizes comparable to placentals through extended lactation. Comparison with avian brain evolution suggests that placental brain size should be constrained due to placentals' relative precociality, as has been hypothesized for precocial bird hatchlings. We propose that placentals circumvent this constraint because of their focus on gestation, as opposed to the marsupial emphasis on lactation. Marsupials represent a less constrained condition, demonstrating that hypotheses regarding placental brain size evolution cannot be generalized to all mammals.
Project description:Marsupials are a lineage of mammals noted for giving birth to highly altricial young, which complete much of their "fetal" development externally attached to a teat. Postnatal B cell ontogeny and diversity was investigated in a model marsupial species, the gray short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica. The results support the initiation of B cell development late in gestation and progressing into the first two weeks of postnatal life. Transcription of CD79a and CD79b was detected in embryonic tissue prior to birth, while immunoglobulin heavy chain locus transcription was not detected until the first postnatal 24 hours. Transcription of the Ig light chains was not detected until postnatal day 7 at the earliest. The predicted timing of the earliest appearance of mature B cells and completion of gene rearrangements is consistent with previous analyses on the timing of endogenous antibody responses in newborn marsupials. The diversity of early B cell IgH chains is limited, as has been seen in fetal humans and mice, but lacks bias in the gene segments used to encode the variable domains. Newborn light chain diversity is, from the start, comparable to that of the adult, consistent with an earlier hypothesis that light chains contribute extensively to antibody diversity in this species.
Project description:Derived sabercats had craniomandibular morphologies that in many respects were highly different from those of extant felids, and this has often been interpreted functionally as adaptations for predation at extreme gape angles with hypertrophied upper canines. It is unknown how much of this was a result of intraspecific postnatal ontogeny, since juveniles of sabercats are rare and no quantitative study has been made of craniomandibular ontogeny. Postnatal ontogenetic craniomandibular shape changes in two morphologically derived sabercats, Smilodon fatalis and S. populator, were analysed using geometric morphometrics and compared to three species of extant pantherines, the jaguar, tiger, and Sunda clouded leopard. Ontogenetic shape changes in Smilodon usually involved the same areas of the cranium and mandible as in extant pantherines, and large-scale modularization was similar, suggesting that such may have been the case for all felids, since it followed the same trends previously observed in other mammals. However, in other respects Smilodon differed from extant pantherines. Their crania underwent much greater and more localised ontogenetic shape changes than did the mandibles, whereas crania and mandibles of extant pantherines underwent smaller, fewer and less localised shape changes. Ontogenetic shape changes in the two species of Smilodon are largely similar, but differences are also present, notably those which may be tied to the presence of larger upper canines in S. populator. Several of the specialized cranial characters differentiating adult Smilodon from extant felids in a functional context, which are usually regarded as evolutionary adaptations for achieving high gape angles, are ontogenetic, and in several instances ontogeny appears to recapitulate phylogeny to some extent. No such ontogenetic evolutionary adaptive changes were found in the extant pantherines. Evolution in morphologically derived sabercats involved greater cranial ontogenetic changes than among extant felids, resulting in greatly modified adult craniomandibular morphologies.
Project description:Hypothalamic Agrp neurons regulate food ingestion in adult mice. Whether these neurons are functional before animals start to ingest food is unknown. Here, we studied the functional ontogeny of Agrp neurons during breastfeeding using postnatal day 10 mice. In contrast to adult mice, we show that isolation from the nursing nest, not milk deprivation or ingestion, activated Agrp neurons. Non-nutritive suckling and warm temperatures blunted this effect. Using in vivo fiber photometry, neonatal Agrp neurons showed a rapid increase in activity upon isolation from the nest, an effect rapidly diminished following reunion with littermates. Neonates unable to release GABA from Agrp neurons expressed blunted emission of isolation-induced ultrasonic vocalizations. Chemogenetic overactivation of these neurons further increased emission of these ultrasonic vocalizations, but not milk ingestion. We uncovered important functional properties of hypothalamic Agrp neurons during mouse development, suggesting these neurons facilitate offspring-to-caregiver bonding.
Project description:Plasma oxytocin (OT) originates from secretion from the pituitary gland into the circulation and from absorption of OT in mother's milk into the blood via intestinal permeability. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the absorption of OT remains unclear. Here, we report that plasma OT concentrations increased within 10?min after oral delivery in postnatal day 1-7 mice. However, in Receptors for Advanced Glycation End Products (RAGE) knockout mice after postnatal day 3, an identical OT increase was not observed. In adult mice, plasma OT was also increased in a RAGE-dependent manner after oral delivery or direct administration into the intestinal tract. Mass spectrometry evaluated that OT was absorbed intact. RAGE was abundant in the intestinal epithelial cells in both suckling pups and adults. These data highlight that OT is transmitted via a receptor-mediated process with RAGE and suggest that oral OT supplementation may be advantageous in OT drug development.
Project description:The subclass Theria of Mammalia includes marsupials (infraclass Metatheria) and placentals (infraclass Eutheria). Within each group, interordinal relationships remain unclear. One limitation of many studies is incomplete ordinal representation. Here, we analyze DNA sequences for part of exon 1 of the interphotoreceptor retinoid binding protein gene, including 10 that are newly reported, for representatives of all therian orders. Among placentals, the most robust clades are Cetartiodactyla, Paenungulata, and an expanded African clade that includes paenungulates, tubulidentates, and macroscelideans. Anagalida, Archonta, Altungulata, Hyracoidea + Perissodactyla, Ungulata, and the "flying primate" hypothesis are rejected by statistical tests. Among marsupials, the most robust clade includes all orders except Didelphimorphia. The phylogenetic placement of the monito del monte and the marsupial mole remains unclear. However, the marsupial mole sequence contains three frameshift indels and numerous stop codons in all three reading frames. Given that the interphotoreceptor retinoid binding protein gene is a single-copy gene that functions in the visual cycle and that the marsupial mole is blind with degenerate eyes, this finding suggests that phenotypic degeneration of the eyes is accompanied by parallel changes at the molecular level as a result of relaxed selective constraints.
Project description:Rhacophoridae, a family of morphologically cryptic frogs, with many genetically distinct evolutionary lineages, is understudied with respect to skeletal morphology, life history traits and skeletal ontogeny. Here we analyze two species each from two sister lineages, Taruga and Polypedates, and compare their postembryonic skeletal ontogeny, larval chondrocrania and adult osteology in the context of a well-resolved phylogeny. We further compare these ontogenetic traits with the direct-developing Pseudophilautus silus. For each species, we differentially stained a nearly complete developmental series of tadpoles from early postembryonic stages through metamorphosis to determine the intraspecific and interspecific differences of cranial and postcranial bones. Chondrocrania of the four species differ in 1) size; 2) presence/absence of anterolateral and posterior process; and 3) shape of the suprarostral cartilages. Interspecific variation of ossification sequences is limited during early stages, but conspicuous during later development. Early cranial ossification is typical of other anuran larvae, where the frontoparietal, exoccipital and parasphenoid ossify first. The ossification sequences of the cranial bones vary considerably within the four species. Both species of Taruga show a faster cranial ossification rate than Polypedates. Seven cranial bones form when larvae near metamorphic climax. Ossification of all 18 cranial bones is initiated by larval Gosner stage 46 in T. eques. However, some cranial bone formation is not initiated until after metamorphosis in the other three species. Postcranial sequence does not vary significantly. The comparison of adult osteology highlights two characters, which have not been previously recorded: presence/absence of the parieto-squamosal plates and bifurcated base of the omosternum. This study will provide a starting point for comparative analyses of rhacophorid skeletal ontogeny and facilitate the study of the evolution of ontogenetic repatterning associated with the life history variation in the family.