• Emys orbicularis;
  • horizontal septum;
  • cardiogenesis;
  • heart development;
  • TDR-3-D base;
  • 3-D reconstruction


In this article we present a 3-D modeling study of cardiac development in the European pond turtle, Emys orbicularis (of the reptilian order Testudines). The study is aimed at elucidating the embryonic development of the horizontal septum in the ventricle and underscoring the importance of 3-D reconstructions in studying morphogenesis. Turtles possess one common ventricle, partly divided into three cava by a vertical and a horizontal septum, of which the embryonic origins have so far not been described. We used serial sectioning and computerized high-resolution 3-D reconstructions of different developmental stages to create a chronological overview of cardiogenesis, in order to study this process. This has yielded a new understanding of the development of the horizontal septum and (directly related) the looping of the heart tube. This looping is found to be markedly different from that in the human heart, with the turtle having two clear bends in the part of the heart tube leaving the primitive ventricle, as opposed to one in humans. It is this particular looping that is reponsible for the formation of the horizontal septum. In addition to our findings on the ventricular septation this study has also yielded new insights into the developmental origins of the pulmonary vein. The 3-D reconstructions were built using our platform TDR-3-D base and enabled us to study the developmental processes in specific parts of the turtle heart separately and in three dimensions, over time. The complete 3-D reconstructions have been made available to the reader via internet using our 3-D model browser application, which allows interactive viewing of the models. The browser application can be found on, along with additional images of both models and histological sections and animation sequences of the models. By allowing the reader to view the material in such an interactive way, we hope to make optimal use of the new 3-D reconstruction techniques and to engage the reader in a more direct manner. Anat Rec 239:1101–1114, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.