Just out @ Journal of Morphology
Intercentrum versus pleurocentrum growth in early tetrapods: A paleohistological approach
Marylène Danto, Florian Witzmann, Stephanie E. Pierce, Nadia B. Fröbisch
A variety of vertebral centrum morphologies have evolved within early tetrapods which range from multipartite centra consisting of intercentra and pleurocentra in stem-tetrapods, temnospondyls, seymouriamorphs, and anthracosaurs up to monospondylous centra in lepospondyls. With the present study, we aim to determine the formation of both intercentrum and pleurocentrum and asked whether these can be homologized based on their bone histology. Both intercentra and pleurocentra ossified endochondrally and periosteal bone was subsequently deposited on the outer surface of the centra. Our observations indicate low histological variation between intercentrum and pleurocentrum in microstructural organization and growth which inhibits the determination of homologies. However, intercentrum and pleurocentrum development differs during ontogeny. As previously assumed, the intercentrum arises from ventrally located and initially paired ossification centers that fuse ventromedially to form the typical, crescentic, rhachitomous intercentrum. In contrast, presacral pleurocentra may be ancestrally represented by four ossification centers: a ventral and a dorsal pair. Subsequently, two divergent developmental patterns are observed: In stem-tetrapods and temnospondyls, the pleurocentrum evolves from the two dorsally located ossification centers which may occasionally fuse to form a dorsal crescent. In some dvinosaurian temnospondyls, the pleurocentrum may even ossify to full rings. In comparison, the pleurocentrum of stem-amniotes (anthracosaurs, chroniosuchids, seymouriamorphs, and lepospondyls) arises from the two ventrally located ossification centers whereby the ossification pattern is almost identical to that of temnospondyls but mirror-inverted. Thus, the ring-shaped pleurocentrum of Discosauriscus ossifies from ventral to dorsal. We also propose that the ossified portions of the intercentrum and pleurocentrum continued as cartilaginous rings or discs that surrounded the notochord in the living animals.
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