In mammals, embryonic cranial development is modular and step-wise: The individual cranial bones form according to a defined, coordinated schedule. The typical increase in the size of the brain in mammals in the course of evolution ultimately triggered changes in this developmental plan, as a study conducted on embryos of 134 species of animal headed by palaeontologists from the University of Zurich reveals.
Embryonic development in animals – except mice and rats – remains largely unexplored. For a research project at the University of Zurich, the embryos of 134 species of animal were studied non-invasively for the first time using microcomputer imaging, thus yielding globally unique data.
The embryos studied came from museum collections all over the world. The international team of researchers headed by Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra especially studied cranial formation and discovered that the individual cranial bones develop in different phases that are characteristic for the individual species. According to the study, which was published in the journal Nature communications, how the cranial bones develop in mammals also depends on brain size.
Brain size influences the timing of cranial development
The skulls of full-grown animals consist of many individual bones that have fused together. There are two types of bone: dermal and endochondral bones. Endochondral bones form from cartilaginous tissue, which ossifies in the course of the development. Dermal bones, on the other hand, are formed in the dermis. The majority of the skull consists of dermal bones. The bones inside the skull and the petrous bone, part of the temporal bone, however, are endochondral.
As Daisuke Koyabu, now at University of Tokyo, who conducted the studies while he was a post-doc under Sánchez-Villagra, was able to demonstrate, the different bone types do not develop synchronously: Dermal cranial bones form before the endochondrals. According to Sánchez-Villagra, this indicates that the individual bones form based on a precisely defined, coordinated schedule that is characteristic for every species of animal and enables conclusions to be drawn regarding their evolutionary relationships in the tree of animal life.
The researchers also discovered that individual bones in the area around the back of the head have changed their development plan in the course of evolution. “The development of larger brains in mammals triggered the changes observed in the development of bone formation,” Sánchez-Villagra.
Mammals: masticatory apparatus first
With the aid of quantitative methods and evolutionary trees, the researchers ultimately reconstructed the embryonic cranial development of the last common ancestors of all mammals, which lived 180 million years ago during the Jurassic period. As with the majority of mammals, its cranial development began with the formation of the masticatory apparatus bones.
Daisuke Koyabu, Ingmar Werneburg, Naoki Morimoto, Christoph E. Zollikofer, Analia M. Forasiepi, Hideki Endo, Junpei Kimura, Stoshi D. Ohdachi, Son Ngyuen Truong, Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra, Mammalian skull heterochrony reveals modular evolution and a link between cranial development and brain size. Nature communications. April 4, 2014, doi: 10.1038/ncomms4625
Prof. Dr. Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra
Paläontologisches Institut und Museum
Nathalie Huber | Universität Zürich
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy