Evolution of the turtle body plan by the folding and creation of new muscle connections

H Nagashima, F Sugahara, M Takechi, Rolf Ericsson, Y Kawashima-Ohya, Y Narita, S Kuratani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


The turtle shell offers a fascinating case study of vertebrate evolution, based on the modification of a common body plan. The carapace is formed from ribs, which encapsulate the scapula; this stands in contrast to the typical amniote body plan and serves as a key to understanding turtle evolution. Comparative analyses of musculoskeletal development between the Chinese soft-shelled turtle and other amniotes revealed that initial turtle development conforms to the amniote pattern; however, during embryogenesis, lateral rib growth results in a shift of elements. In addition, some limb muscles establish new turtle-specific attachments associated with carapace formation. We propose that the evolutionary origin of the turtle body plan results from heterotopy based on folding and novel connectivities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-196
Number of pages4
Issue number5937
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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