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The controversial origin of the abdominal appendage-like processes in immature insects: Are they true segmental appendages or secondary outgrowths? (Arthropoda hexapoda)



In this article, I review the major characteristics of different types of appendage-like processes that develop at the abdominal segments of many immature insects, and I discuss their controversial morphological value. The main question is whether the abdominal processes are derived from segmental appendages serially homologous to thoracic legs, or whether they are “secondary” outgrowths not homologous with true appendages. Morphological and embryological data, in particular, a comparison with the structure and development of the abdominal appendages in primitive apterygote hexapods, and data from developmental genetics, support the hypothesis of appendicular origin of many of the abdominal processes present in the juvenile stages of various pterygote orders. For example, the lateral processes, such as the tracheal gills in aquatic nymphs of exopterygote insects, are regarded as derived from lateral portions of appendage primordia, homologous with the abdominal styli of apterygotan insects; these processes correspond either to rudimentary telopodites or to coxal exites. The ventrolateral processes, such as the prolegs of different endopterygote insect larvae, appear to be derived from medial portions of the appendicular primordia; they correspond to coxal endites. These views lead to the rejection of Hinton's hypothesis (Hinton [1955] Trans R Entomol Soc Lond 106:455–545) according to which all the abdominal processes of insect larvae are secondary outgrowths not derived from true appendage anlagen. J. Morphol. 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.