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‘Monster… -omics’: on segmentation, re-segmentation, and vertebrae formation in amphibians and other vertebrates

David Buckley1, Viktor Molnár2, Gábor Németh3, Örs Petneházy4 and Judit Vörös5*

Author Affiliations

1 Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales MNCN–CSIC, c/José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, Madrid, 28006, Spain

2 Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden, Állatkerti krt. 6-12, Budapest, 1146, Hungary

3 Mediso Medical Imaging, Alsótörökvész u. 14, Budapest, 1022, Hungary

4 Kaposvár University, Guba Sándor u. 40, Kaposvár, 7400, Hungary

5 Dpt. of Zoology Hungarian Natural History Museum, Baross u. 13, Budapest, 1088, Hungary

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Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:17  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-10-17

Published: 11 April 2013



The axial skeleton is one of the defining evolutionary landmarks of vertebrates. How this structure develops and how it has evolved in the different vertebrate lineages is, however, a matter of debate. Vertebrae and vertebral structures are derived from the embryonic somites, although the mechanisms of development are different between lineages.


Using the anecdotal description of a teratological newt (Triturus dobrogicus) with an unusual malformation in its axial skeleton, we review, compare, and discuss the development of vertebral structures and, in particular, the development of centra from somitic cellular domains in different vertebrate groups. Vertebrae development through re-segmentation of the somitic sclerotomal cells is considered the general mechanism among vertebrates, which has been generalized from studies in amniotic model organisms. The prevalence of this mechanism among anamniotes is, however, controversial. We propose alternative developmental mechanisms for vertebrae formation that should be experimentally tested.


Research in model organisms, especially amniotes, is laying the foundations for a thorough understanding of the mechanisms of development of the axial skeleton in vertebrates, foundations that should expand the extent of future comparative studies. Although immersed in the ‘-omics’ era, we emphasize the need for an integrative and organismal approach in evolutionary developmental biology for a better understanding of the causal role of development in the evolution of morphological diversity in nature.

Development; Evo-devo; Morphology; Osteology; Vertebrae