Understanding morphological evolution in dinosaurs from a mechanistic viewpoint requires the elucidation of the morphogenesis that gave rise to derived dinosaurian traits, such as the perforated acetabulum. In the current study, we used embryos of extant animals with ancestral- and dinosaur-type acetabula, namely, geckos and turtles (with unperforated acetabulum), and birds (with perforated acetabulum). We performed comparative and experimental analyses, focusing on inter-tissue interaction during embryogenesis, and found that the avian perforated acetabulum develops via a secondary loss of cartilaginous tissue in the acetabular region. This cartilage loss might be mediated by inter-tissue interaction with the hip interzone, a mesenchymal tissue that exists in the embryonic joint structure. Furthermore, the data indicate that avian pelvic anlagen is more susceptible to paracrine molecules, e.g. Wnt ligand, secreted by the hip interzone than 'reptilian' anlagen. We hypothesize that during the emergence of dinosaurs, the pelvic anlagen became susceptible to the Wnt ligand, which led to the loss of the cartilaginous tissue and to the perforation in the acetabular region. Thus, the current evolutionary-developmental biology study deepens our understanding of morphological evolution in dinosaurs and provides it with a novel perspective.
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