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Abstract

Postembryonic skeletal development of the pipid frog Xenopus laevis is described from cleared-and-stained whole-mount specimens and sectioned material representing Nieuwkoop and Faber developmental Stages 46–65, plus postmetamorphic individuals up to 6 months old. An assessment of variation of skeletogenesis within a single population of larvae and comparison with earlier studies revealed that the timing, but not the sequence, of skeletal development in X. laevis is more variable than previously reported and poorly correlated with the development of external morphology. Examination of chondrocranial development indicates that the rostral cartilages of X. laevis are homologous with the suprarostral cartilages of non-pipoid anurans, and suggests that the peculiar chondrocranium of this taxon is derived from a more generalized pattern typical of non-pipoid frogs. Derived features of skeletal development not previously reported for X. laevis include (1) bipartite formation of the palatoquadrate; (2) precocious formation of the adult mandible; (3) origin of the angulosplenial from two centers of ossification; (4) complete erosion of the orbital cartilage during the later stages of metamorphosis; (5) development of the sphenethmoid as a membrane, rather than an endochondral bone; and (6) a pattern of timing of ossification that more closely coincides with that of the pelobatid frog Spea than that recorded for neobatrachian species. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.