Sequence of ossification in the skeleton of growing and metamorphosing tadpoles of Rana pipiens


  • Supported by research grants from the National Science Foundation (GB 4317) and the U. S. Public Health Service (GM 05867-10).


The order of ossification of bones in the skeleton of Rana pipiens during larval growth and metamorphosis has been determined from observations on specimens fixed in 70% alcohol and stained with alizarin red S. The axial skeleton ossifies in a generally cephalo-caudal sequence, beginning with the parasphenoid bone at Taylor-Kollros stages IV-IX, followed by vertebrae (V-IX) and then the urostyle (IX-XIV). Exoccipitals (VII-IX), frontoparietals (XI-XII) and prootics (XIII-XVII) are additional cranial bones which successively ossify before metamorphosis. With the onset of metamorphosis at stage XVIII jawbones and rostral bones of the skull ossify in the following succession: premaxilla, maxilla, septomaxilla, nasal, dentary, angular, squamosal, pterygoid, prevomer, mentomeckelian, quadratojugal, palatine, columella, posteromedial process of “hyoid.” The sphenethmoid does not ossify until after metamorphosis.

Ossification of limbbones begins with the femur or humerus at stages X-XII and progresses proximo-distally to the phalanges by stages XIII-XV. Carpals, however, do not ossify until stage XXV or after metamorphosis. The ilium of the pelvic girdle begins to ossify at stages X-XII, but the ischium is delayed until stages XX-XXIII. Scapula and coracoid of the pectoral girdle undergo initial ossification at stages XII-XIV, suprascapula and clavicle at stages XIII-XV. The sternum does not begin to ossify until stage XXIV. The possible role of thyroid hormones in stimulating osteogenesis is discussed.