Skeletal elements in the vertebrate eye and adnexa: Morphological and developmental perspectives



Although poorly appreciated, the vertebrate eye and adnexa are relatively common sites for skeletogenesis. In many taxa, the skeleton contributes to internal reinforcement in addition to the external housing of the eye (e.g., the circumorbital bones and eyelids). Eyeball elements such as scleral cartilage and scleral ossicles are present within a broad diversity of vertebrates, albeit not therian mammals, and have been used as important models for the study of condensations and epithelial–mesenchymal interactions. In contrast, other elements invested within the eye or its close surroundings remain largely unexplored. The onset and mode of development of these skeletal elements are often variable (early versus late; involving chondrogenesis, osteogenesis, or both), and most (if not all) of these elements appear to share a common neural crest origin. This review discusses the development and distribution of the skeletal elements within and associated with the developing eye and comments on homology of the elements where these are questionable. Developmental Dynamics 235:1244–1255, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.