Salamander limb development: Integrating genes, morphology, and fossils



The development of the tetrapod limb during skeletogenesis follows a highly conservative pattern characterized by a general proximo-distal progression in the establishment of skeletal elements and a postaxial polarity in digit development. Salamanders represent the only exception to this pattern and display an early establishment of distal autopodial structures, specifically the basale commune, an amalgamation of distal carpal and tarsal 1 and 2, and a distinct preaxial polarity in digit development. This deviance from the conserved tetrapod pattern has resulted in a number of hypotheses to explain its developmental basis and evolutionary history. Here we summarize the current knowledge of salamander limb development under consideration of the fossil record to provide a deep time perspective of this evolutionary pathway and highlight what data will be needed in the future to gain a better understanding of salamander limb development specifically and tetrapod limb development and evolution more broadly. Developmental Dynamics 240:1087–1099, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.