Development of craniofacial musculature in Monodelphis domestica (marsupialia, didelphidae)



Development of craniofacial muscles of Monodelphis domestica (Marsupialia, Didelphidae) is described. In a period of 4–6 days all craniofacial muscles in M. domestica progress from myoblast condensation, to striated myofibers that are aligned in the direction of adult muscles and possess multiple, lateral nuclei. This process begins 1 to 2 days before birth and continues during the first few days after birth. Compared to other aspects of cranial development, muscle development in M. domestica is rapid. This rapid and more or less simultaneous emergence of craniofacial muscles differs from the previously described pattern of development of the cranial skeleton in marsupials, which displays a mosaic of acceleration and deceleration of regions and individual elements. Unlike the skeletal system, craniofacial muscles show no evidence of regional specialization during development. M. domestica resembles eutherian mammals in the relatively rapid and more or less simultaneous differentiation of all craniofacial muscles. It differs from eutherian taxa in that most stages of myogenesis occur postnatally, following the onset of function. The timing of the development of muscular and skeletal structures is compared and it is concluded that the relatively early development of muscle is not reflected by any particular acceleration of the differentiation or growth of skeletal structures. Finally, the difficulties in accounting for complex internal arrangements of muscles such as the tongue, given current models of myogenesis are summarized. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.