Christen D. Shelton & Paul Martin Sander (2017)
Long bone histology of Ophiacodon reveals the geologically earliest occurrence of fibrolamellar bone in the mammalian stem lineage.
Comptes Rendus Palevol (advance online publication)
Shared histological characteristics have been observed in the bone matrix and vascularity between Ophiacodontidae and the later therapsids (Synapsida). Historically, this coincidence has been explained as simply a reflection of the presumed aquatic lifestyle of Ophiacodon or even a sign of immaturity. Here we show, by histologically sampling an ontogenetic series of Ophiacodon humeri, as well as additional material, the existence of fibrolamellar bone (FLB) in the postcranial bones of a pelycosaur. Our findings have reaffirmed what previous studies first described as fast growing tissue, and by proxy, have disproven that the highly vascularized cortex is simply a reflection of young age. This tissue demonstrates the classic histological characteristics of true FLB. The cortex consists of primary osteons in a woven bone matrix and remains highly vascularized throughout ontogeny, providing evidence for fast skeletal growth. Overall, the FLB tissue we have described in Ophiacodon is more advanced or “mammal-like” in terms of the osteonal development, bone matrix, and skeletal growth than what has been described thus far for any other pelycosaur taxon. With regards to the histological record, our results remain inconclusive as to the preferred ecology of Ophiacodon due to a similar cortical vascularity pattern exhibited by other carnivorous pelycosaurs. Our findings have set the evolutionary origins of FLB and high skeletal growth rates back approximately 20 million years to the Early Permian, and by phylogenetic extension perhaps the Late Carboniferous.
Marylène Danto, Florian Witzmann, Stephanie E. Pierce and Nadia B. Fröbisch (2017)
Intercentrum versus pleurocentrum growth in early tetrapods: A paleohistological approach.
Journal of Morphology (advance online publication)
A variety of vertebral centrum morphologies have evolved within early tetrapods which range from multipartite centra consisting of intercentra and pleurocentra in stem-tetrapods, temnospondyls, seymouriamorphs, and anthracosaurs up to monospondylous centra in lepospondyls. With the present study, we aim to determine the formation of both intercentrum and pleurocentrum and asked whether these can be homologized based on their bone histology. Both intercentra and pleurocentra ossified endochondrally and periosteal bone was subsequently deposited on the outer surface of the centra. Our observations indicate low histological variation between intercentrum and pleurocentrum in microstructural organization and growth which inhibits the determination of homologies. However, intercentrum and pleurocentrum development differs during ontogeny. As previously assumed, the intercentrum arises from ventrally located and initially paired ossification centers that fuse ventromedially to form the typical, crescentic, rhachitomous intercentrum. In contrast, presacral pleurocentra may be ancestrally represented by four ossification centers: a ventral and a dorsal pair. Subsequently, two divergent developmental patterns are observed: In stem-tetrapods and temnospondyls, the pleurocentrum evolves from the two dorsally located ossification centers which may occasionally fuse to form a dorsal crescent. In some dvinosaurian temnospondyls, the pleurocentrum may even ossify to full rings. In comparison, the pleurocentrum of stem-amniotes (anthracosaurs, chroniosuchids, seymouriamorphs, and lepospondyls) arises from the two ventrally located ossification centers whereby the ossification pattern is almost identical to that of temnospondyls but mirror-inverted. Thus, the ring-shaped pleurocentrum of Discosauriscus ossifies from ventral to dorsal. We also propose that the ossified portions of the intercentrum and pleurocentrum continued as cartilaginous rings or discs that surrounded the notochord in the living animals.