Evidence For The Neural Crest Origin Of Turtle Plastron Bones

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The migrating cranial neural crest cells of birds, fish, and mammals have been shown to form the membranous bones of the cranium and face. These findings have been extrapolated to suggest that all the dermal bones of the vertebrate exoskeleton are derived from the neural crest ectomesenchyme. However, only one group of extant animals, the Chelonians, has an extensive bony exoskeleton in the trunk. We have previously shown that the autapornorphic carapacial and plastron bones of the turtle shell arise from dermal intramembranous ossification. Here, we show that the bones of the plastron stain positively for HNK-1 and PDGFR alpha and are therefore most likely of neural crest origin. This extends the hypothesis of the neural crest origin of the exoskeleton to include the turtle plastron. (C) 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.