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Keywords:

  • evolution;
  • ontogeny;
  • Ostracoda;
  • paedomorphosis;
  • podocopida

The hingement of cytheracean ostracods is a very significant character for taxonomy. In some taxa, adult hinge characters develop abruptly at the last moult, whilst in others no significant change of hingement is observed throughout ontogeny. These two types of hinge development are regarded to as ‘leap type’ and ‘gradual type’, respectively. In the five major cytheracean families examined, heterochronic relationships were detected in 11 pairs, i.e. in each family, the adult hinge character of the gradual-type taxon corresponds to the A-1 hingement of the leap-type taxon. Furthermore, these 11 heterochronic pairs can be classified into two categories. The first are ‘complete pairs’, in which the adult hinge character of gradual-type taxa can be almost completely identified in the A-1 of the counterpart leap-type taxa. The second group are ‘incomplete pairs’, in which the relationship is not so complete. Palaeontological evidence indicates that in most cases the heterochronic evolution is characterized by paedomorphosis, because the leap type always has the older fossil record than the gradual type in each pair. Most of the gradual-type species of complete pairs originated in the Miocene, while all the gradual-type species of incomplete pairs appeared in and after the Pleistocene. Heterochronic changes must occur universally in the cytheracean ostracods, but the degree of completeness of the heterochronic pair seems to be related to the age of speciation.