• vertebrates;
  • limb development;
  • fish fin;
  • evolution


The new body of evidence from fossils and comparative-developmental analysis of subset of appendicular patterning genes has revealed that limb elements seen in tetrapods are assembled in fish fin over evolutionary time. However, despite of deep homology in basic structure and underlying developmental system, there remains a large morphological gap between distal elements of tetrapod limb and distal fin skeleton of tetrapodomorph fish. Understanding the genetic basis of major transformations in distal-limb morphology is the next challenge for evolutionary developmental biologists. Here by integrating data from fossils, comparative-developmental and genetic studies, models are proposed describing the evolution of cis-regulatory elements as a basis for diversification of appendicular architecture. Instead of emphasizing the subset of developmental genes, for instance Hoxd genes, the focus here is on the significance of elucidating cis-regulatory elements for multiple other key molecular players of limb/fin development and genetic/molecular interactions among them, for a better understanding of the developmental and genetic basis of limb evolution. Developmental Dynamics 240:1005–1016, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.