Nov 2, 2014

How the pterosaur got its wings

Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
Masayoshi Tokita

Abstract

Throughout the evolutionary history of life, only three vertebrate lineages took to the air by acquiring a body plan suitable for powered flight: birds, bats, and pterosaurs. Because pterosaurs were the earliest vertebrate lineage capable of powered flight and included the largest volant animal in the history of the earth, understanding how they evolved their flight apparatus, the wing, is an important issue in evolutionary biology. Herein, I speculate on the potential basis of pterosaur wing evolution using recent advances in the developmental biology of flying and non-flying vertebrates. The most significant morphological features of pterosaur wings are: (i) a disproportionately elongated fourth finger, and (ii) a wing membrane called the brachiopatagium, which stretches from the posterior surface of the arm and elongated fourth finger to the anterior surface of the leg. At limb-forming stages of pterosaur embryos, the zone of polarizing activity (ZPA) cells, from which the fourth finger eventually differentiates, could up-regulate, restrict, and prolong expression of 5'-located Homeobox D (Hoxd) genes (e.g. Hoxd11, Hoxd12, and Hoxd13) around the ZPA through pterosaur-specific exploitation of sonic hedgehog (SHH) signalling. ...Continue Reading

  • References125
  • Citations2

References

  • References125
  • Citations2

Mentioned in this Paper

Vertebrates
Embryo
TBX3 gene
Chondrocyte Proliferation
HOXD12 gene
Science of Morphology
Musculoskeletal Development
Spastic Syndrome
FGF10 protein, human
Phalanx Unspecified

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