Genetic variation in functionally integrated skeletal traits can be maintained over 10 million years despite bottlenecks and stringent selection. Here, we describe an analysis of the genetic architecture of the canid axial skeleton using populations of the Portuguese Water Dog Canis familiaris) and silver fox (Vulpes vulpes). Twenty-one skeletal metrics taken from radiographs of the forelimbs and hind limbs of the fox and dog were used to construct separate anatomical principal component (PC) matrices of the two species. In both species, 15 of the 21 PCs exhibited significant heritability, ranging from 25% to 70%. The second PC, in both species, represents a trade-off in which limb-bone width is inversely correlated with limb-bone length. PC2 accounts for approximately 15% of the observed skeletal variation, ~30% of the variation in shape. Many of the other significant PCs affect very small amounts of variation (e.g., 0.2–2%) along trade-off axes that partition function between the forelimbs and hind limbs. These PCs represent shape axes in which an increase in size of an element of the forelimb is associated with a decrease in size of an element of the hind limb and vice versa. In most cases, these trade-offs are heritable in both species and genetic loci have been identified in the Portuguese Water Dog for many of these. These PCs, present in both the dog and the fox, include ones that affect lengths of the forelimb versus the hind limb, length of the forefoot versus that of the hind foot, muscle moment (i.e., lever) arms of the forelimb versus hind limb, and cortical thickness of the bones of the forelimb versus hind limb. These inverse relationships suggest that genetic regulation of the axial skeleton results, in part, from the action of genes that influence suites of functionally integrated traits. Their presence in both dogs and foxes suggests that the genes controlling the regulation of these PCs of the forelimb versus hind limb may be found in other tetrapod taxa.
The genetic basis of the effects of domestication have previously been examined in relation to morphological, physiological and behavioural traits, but not for vocalizations. According to Belyaev (1979, Journal of Heredity 70, 301-308), directional selection for tame behaviour toward humans resulted in domestication. This hypothesis has been confirmed experimentally on the farm-bred silver fox Vulpes vulpes population that has undergone 45 years of artificial selection for tameness and 35 years of selection for aggressiveness. These foxes, with their precisely known attitudes toward people, provide a means of examining vocal indicators of tameness and aggressiveness to establish the genetic basis for vocal production in canids. We examined vocalizations toward people in foxes selected for tameness and aggressiveness compared to those of three kinds of crosses: Hybrids (Tame X Aggressive), A-Backcrosses (Aggressive X Hybrid) and T-Backcrosses (Tame X Hybrid). We report the effects of selection for tameness on usage and structure of different vocalisations and suggest that vocal indicators for tameness and aggressiveness toward people are discrete phenotypic traits in silver foxes.
behaviour genetic; canid-human interaction; Canidae; domestication; vocal behaviour; Vulpes vulpes
The foxes at Novosibirsk, Russia, are the only population of domesticated foxes in the world. These domesticated foxes originated from farm-bred silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes), whose genetic source is unknown. In this study we examined the origin of the domesticated strain of foxes and two other farm-bred fox populations (aggressive and unselected) maintained in Novosibirsk. To identify the phylogenetic origin of these populations we sequenced two regions of mtDNA, cytochrome b and D-loop, from 24 Novosibirsk foxes (8 foxes from each population) and compared them with corresponding sequences of native red foxes from Europe, Asia, Alaska and Western Canada, Eastern Canada, and the Western Mountains of the USA. We identified seven cytochrome b - D-loop haplotypes in Novosibirsk populations, four of which were previously observed in Eastern North America. The three remaining haplotypes differed by one or two base change from the most common haplotype in Eastern Canada. ΦST analysis showed significant differentiation between Novosibirsk populations and red fox populations from all geographic regions except Eastern Canada. No haplotypes of Eurasian origin were identified in the Novosibirsk populations. These results are consistent with historical records indicating that the original breeding stock of farm-bred foxes originated from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Mitochondrial DNA data together with historical records indicate two stages in the selection of domesticated foxes: the first includes captive breeding for ~50 years with unconscious selection for behaviour; the second corresponds to over 50 further years of intensive selection for tame behaviour.
domestication; mitochondrial DNA; phylogeography; red fox; tameness
Two strains of the silver fox (Vulpes vulpes), with markedly different behavioral phenotypes, have been developed by long-term selection for behavior. Foxes from the tame strain exhibit friendly behavior towards humans, paralleling the sociability of canine puppies, whereas foxes from the aggressive strain are defensive and exhibit aggression to humans. To understand the genetic differences underlying these behavioral phenotypes fox-specific genomic resources are needed.
cDNA from mRNA from pre-frontal cortex of a tame and an aggressive fox was sequenced using the Roche 454 FLX Titanium platform (> 2.5 million reads & 0.9 Gbase of tame fox sequence; >3.3 million reads & 1.2 Gbase of aggressive fox sequence). Over 80% of the fox reads were assembled into contigs. Mapping fox reads against the fox transcriptome assembly and the dog genome identified over 30,000 high confidence fox-specific SNPs. Fox transcripts for approximately 14,000 genes were identified using SwissProt and the dog RefSeq databases. An at least 2-fold expression difference between the two samples (p < 0.05) was observed for 335 genes, fewer than 3% of the total number of genes identified in the fox transcriptome.
Transcriptome sequencing significantly expanded genomic resources available for the fox, a species without a sequenced genome. In a very cost efficient manner this yielded a large number of fox-specific SNP markers for genetic studies and provided significant insights into the gene expression profile of the fox pre-frontal cortex; expression differences between the two fox samples; and a catalogue of potentially important gene-specific sequence variants. This result demonstrates the utility of this approach for developing genomic resources in species with limited genomic information.
We analysed asymmetry in the wings of the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)by measuring area, length and width of fore- and hindwings. The type of asymmetry is fluctuating except for fore- and hindwing area, and forewing width in males, where asymmetry is directional. The amount of asymmetry (variance of the left wing minus the right wing) is less in males than in females. Within males asymmetry was directional and less in pale, predominantly territorial males than in melanic, predominantly non-territorial males. Asymmetry was negatively related to growth rate within females, but not within males. Females grew faster than males, but had higher asymmetry, whereas the more asymmetrical melanic males grew more slowly than pale males. The differences in the type and amount of asymmetry between the sexes and colour classes suggest a relationship with sex-specific flight patterns such as the territorial spiralling flight of males. We hypothesize that slightly asymmetrical males turn faster, and therefore are superior in territorial disputes over more symmetrical or extremely asymmetrical males. This implies that sexual selection via male–male competition influences the type and amount of asymmetry. The existence of more extremely asymmetrical individuals in females, and to a lesser extent in non-territorial males, may indicate that there are costs in reducing asymmetry.
In the silver fox, as in its wild ancestor, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes L.), the annual growing phase (anagen) of guard hair follicles occupies at least four months. Severe damage to the hair coat near the end of this growing period was reported in 1985 on many ranches in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. A histological analysis of serial sections of skin biopsies showed a marked increase in nuclear aberrations in the hair matrix of anagen guard hair follicles. These nuclear aberrations indicated that cells were undergoing apoptosis, a controlled form of cell death. Tissues from affected and unaffected foxes for histological and toxicological analysis, as well as other data, were obtained during visits to 26 ranches in 1986 and 34 ranches in 1987. Histological sections of the 1987 skin samples showed the mean percentage of nuclear aberrations in 43 unaffected foxes to be 0.08 +/- 0.01 (SEM), while that for 49 affected foxes was 0.51 +/- 0.23. The four foxes with the most severe coat damage also had the highest incidences of guard hair matrix cells with nuclear aberrations, ranging from 20 to 100 times greater than the mean for unaffected foxes. The mitotic index of the hair matrix, which normally remains fairly constant during the hair growth phase, was similar for unaffected and affected foxes (1.83 +/- 0.06 and 1.97 +/- 0.07 respectively). Although our analyses of field data have not established a specific environmental factor associated with increased nuclear aberrations, the possible involvement of toxic agents in follicle damage may warrant further investigation.
During the second part of the 20th century, Belyaev selected tame and aggressive foxes (Vulpes vulpes), in an effort known as the “farm-fox experiment”, to recapitulate the process of animal domestication. Using these tame and aggressive foxes as founders of segregant backcross and intercross populations we have employed interval mapping to identify a locus for tame behavior on fox chromosome VVU12. This locus is orthologous to, and therefore validates, a genomic region recently implicated in canine domestication. The tame versus aggressive behavioral phenotype was characterized as the first principal component (PC) of a PC matrix made up of many distinct behavioral traits (e.g. wags tail; comes to the front of the cage; allows head to be touched; holds observer’s hand with its mouth; etc.). Mean values of this PC for F1, backcross and intercross populations defined a linear gradient of heritable behavior ranging from tame to aggressive. The second PC did not follow such a gradient, but also mapped to VVU12, and distinguished between active and passive behaviors. These data suggest that 1) there are at least two VVU12 loci associated with behavior; 2) expression of these loci is dependent on interactions with other parts of the genome (the genome context) and therefore varies from one crossbred population to another depending on the individual parents that participated in the cross.
behavior genetics; domestication; social behavior; Vulpes vulpes; Canis familiaris
The genetic and molecular mechanisms of tameness are largely unknown. A line of silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes) selected for non-aggressive behavior has been used in Russia since the 1960's to study the effect of domestication. We have previously compared descendants of these selected (S) animals with a group of non-selected (NS) silver foxes kept under identical conditions, and showed that changes in the brain transcriptome between the two groups are small. Unexpectedly, many of the genes showing evidence of differential expression between groups were related to hemoproteins.
In this study, we use quantitative RT-PCR to demonstrate that the activity of heme related genes differ between S and NS foxes in three regions of the brain. Furthermore, our analyses also indicate that changes in mRNA levels of heme related genes can be well described by an additive polygenic effect. We also show that the difference in genetic background between the two lines of foxes is limited, as estimated by mitochondrial DNA divergence.
Our results indicate that selection for tameness can modify the expression of heme related genes in canid brain regions known to modulate emotions and behavior. The possible involvement of heme related genes in behavior is surprising. It is possible that hemoglobin modulates the behavior of canids by interaction with CO and NO signaling. Another possibility is that hemorphins, known to be produced after enzymatic cleavage of hemoglobin, are responsible for behavioral alterations. Thus, we hypothesize that hemoglobin metabolism can be a functionally relevant aspect of the domestic phenotype in foxes selected for tameness.
To assist in evaluating serological test results from dead animals, 10 silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and 10 blue foxes (Alopex lagopus), 6 of each species previously vaccinated against and all challenged with Microsporum canis, were blood sampled and euthanased. Fox carcasses were stored at +10°C, and autopsy was performed on Days 0, 2, 4, 7, and 11 post mortem during which samples from blood and/or body fluid from the thoracic cavity were collected. Antibodies against M. canis were measured in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) as absorbance values (optical density; OD). To assess the degradation of antibodies, the ratio between post mortem and ante mortem absorbance was calculated. The mean absorbance from samples collected during autopsy was generally lower than from samples from live animals. In blood samples, this difference increased significantly with time (P = 0.04), while in body fluid samples the difference decreased (not significant; P = 0.18). We suggest that a positive serological result from testing blood or body fluid of a dead animal may be regarded as valuable, although specific prevalences obtained by screening populations based on this type of material may represent an under-estimation of the true antibody prevalence. Negative serological test results based on material from carcasses may be less conclusive, taken into account the general degradation processes in decaying carcasses, also involving immunoglobulin proteins.
Since 1954, there have been in excess of 800 cases of rabies as a result of European Bat Lyssaviruses types 1 and 2 (EBLV-1, EBLV-2) infection, mainly in Serotine and Myotis bats respectively. These viruses have rarely been reported to infect humans and terrestrial mammals, as the only exceptions are sheep in Denmark, a stone marten in Germany and a cat in France. The purpose of this study was to investigate the susceptibility of foxes to EBLVs using silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes) as a model.
Our experimental studies have shown that the susceptibility of foxes to EBLVs is low by the intramuscular (IM) route, however, animals were sensitive to intracranial (IC) inoculation. Mortality was 100% for both EBLV-1 (~4.5 logs) and EBLV-2 (~3.0 logs) delivered by the IC route. Virus dissemination and inflammatory infiltrate in the brain were demonstrated but virus specific neutralising antibody (VNA) was limited (log(ED50) = 0.24–2.23 and 0.95–2.39 respectively for specific EBLV-1 and EBLV-2). Foxes were also susceptible, at a low level, to peripheral (IM) infection (~3.0 logs) with EBLV-1 but not EBLV-2. Three out of 21 (14.3%) foxes developed clinical signs between 14 and 24 days post-EBLV-1 infection. None of the animals given EBLV-2 developed clinical disease.
These data suggest that the chance of a EBLV spill-over from bat to fox is low, but with a greater probability for EBLV-1 than for EBLV-2 and that foxes seem to be able to clear the virus before it reaches the brain and cause a lethal infection.
We review the evolution of domestic animals, emphasizing the effect of the earliest steps of domestication on its course. Using the first domesticated species, the dog (Canis familiaris) as an illustration, we describe the evolutionary specificities of the historical domestication, such as the high level and wide range of diversity. We suggest that the process of earliest domestication via unconscious and later conscious selection of human-defined behavioral traits may accelerate phenotypic variations. The review is based on the results of the long-term experiment designed to reproduce early mammalian domestication in the silver fox (Vulpes vulpes) selected for tameability, or amenability to domestication. We describe changes in behavior, morphology and physiology that appeared in the fox during its selection for tameability and that were similar to those observed in the domestic dog. Based on the experimental fox data and survey of relevant data, we discuss the developmental, genetic and possible molecular-genetic mechanisms of these changes. We assign the causative role in evolutionary transformation of domestic animals to selection for behavior and to the neurospecific regulatory genes it affects.
Understanding the evolutionary origins of hemispheric specialization remains a topic of considerable interest in a variety of scientific disciplines. Whether nonhuman primates exhibit population-level limb preferences continues to be a controversial topic. In this study, limb preferences for ascending and descending locomotion were assessed as a means of examining the hypothesis that asymmetries in forelimb bones might be attributed to asymmetries in posture. The results indicated that captive chimpanzees showed a population-level leftward asymmetry in descending locomotion but no group bias for ascending locomotion. The results are consistent with previous behavioral studies in captive chimpanzees as well as studies on skeletal asymmetries of the forelimbs of chimpanzees.
laterality; posture; locomotion; chimpanzees
In this study, we determined the concentrations of total mercury (Hg) in samples of liver, kidney and skeletal muscle of 27 red foxes Vulpes vulpes (L., 1758) from north-western Poland, and examined the morphometric characteristics of the collected specimens. The analysis also included the relationship between Hg concentration and the fox size, and the suitability of individual organs as bioindicators in indirect evaluation of environmental mercury contamination. Determination of Hg concentration was performed by atomic absorption spectroscopy. In the analysed samples, the Hg concentration was low and the maximum value did not exceed 0.85 mgHg/kg dry weight (dw). There were no significant differences in Hg concentrations in the analysed material between males and females or between immature and adult groups. The median concentrations of Hg in the liver, kidney and skeletal muscle were 0.22, 0.11 and 0.05 mgHg/kg dw, respectively. The correlation coefficients were significant between the concentrations of mercury in the liver, kidney and skeletal muscle (positive) and between the kidney Hg concentration and kidney mass (negative). Taking into account our results and findings of other authors, it may be argued that the red fox exhibits a measurable response to mercury environmental pollution and meets the requirements of a bioindicator.
Red fox; Mercury; Liver; Kidney; Muscle; Biomonitoring
In this study we determined the levels of trace elements (zinc, copper, lead, cadmium and mercury) in three layers of bones of the hip joint (cartilage, compact bone and spongy bone) of 30 red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) from north-western Poland. Concentrations of Cu, Zn, Pb and Cd were determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometry (ICP-AES) in inductively coupled argon plasma using a Perkin-Elmer Optima 2000 DV. Determination of Hg concentration was performed by atomic absorption spectroscopy. In cartilage, compact bone and spongy bone samples from the red fox, median concentrations of the metals studied could be arranged in the following descending series: Zn > Cu > Pb > Cd > Hg, the values ranging from 142 to 0.002 mg/kg dw. There was a significant difference in Cu concentrations, among all the materials analyzed, with much more Cu found in spongy bone than in compact bone. Significant differences were also noted in the case of Hg concentrations in cartilage with compact bone and the spongy bone, and between concentrations of this metal in compact bone and spongy bone. In males, the concentration of Hg in spongy bone was greater than in females. Younger foxes had a higher concentration of this metal in cartilage than adults. The strongest synergistic relationships were observed in spongy bone between the Zn and Cu, Zn and Cd, as well as between Cu and Cd. Statistically significant antagonistic relationships were detected between zinc and lead in compact bone. In addition to monitoring studies conducted on the abiotic environment, an urgent need exists for long-term monitoring of concentrations of heavy metals with long-term effects on living organisms. An important addition is provided by biomonitoring studies on domesticated and free-living mammals, including Canidae.
Red fox; Bioindicator; Bone tissue; Trace elements
The structure of the leptin gene seems to be well conserved. The polymorphism of this gene in four species belonging to the Canidae family (the dog (Canis familiaris) – 16 different breeds, the Chinese racoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides procyonoides), the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus)) were studied with the use of single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP), restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and DNA sequencing techniques. For exon 2, all species presented the same SSCP pattern, while in exon 3 some differences were found. DNA sequencing of exon 3 revealed the presence of six nucleotide substitutions, differentiating the studied species. Three of them cause amino acid substitutions as well. For all dog breeds studied, SSCP patterns were identical.
leptin; Canidae; polymorphism
We describe and analyze a Neandertal postcranial skeleton and dentition, which together show unambiguous signs of right-handedness. Asymmetries between the left and right upper arm in Regourdou 1 were identified nearly 20 years ago, then confirmed by more detailed analyses of the inner bone structure for the clavicle, humerus, radius and ulna. The total pattern of all bones in the shoulder and arm reveals that Regourdou 1 was a right-hander. Confirmatory evidence comes from the mandibular incisors, which display a distinct pattern of right oblique scratches, typical of right-handed manipulations performed at the front of the mouth. Regourdou's right handedness is consistent with the strong pattern of manual lateralization in Neandertals and further confirms a modern pattern of left brain dominance, presumably signally linguistic competence. These observations along with cultural, genetic and morphological evidence indicate language competence in Neandertals and their European precursors.
The Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway is essential for patterning many structures in vertebrates including the nervous system, chordamesoderm, limb and endodermal organs. In the sea urchin, a basal deuterostome, Hh signaling is shown to participate in organizing the mesoderm. At gastrulation the Hh ligand is expressed by the endoderm downstream of the Brachyury and FoxA transcription factors in the endomesoderm gene regulatory network. The co-receptors Patched (Ptc) and Smoothened (Smo) are expressed by the neighboring skeletogenic and non-skeletogenic mesoderm. Perturbations of Hh, Ptc and Smo cause embryos to develop with skeletal defects and inappropriate non-skeletogenic mesoderm patterning, although initial specification of mesoderm occurs without detectable abnormalities. Perturbations of the pathway caused late defects in skeletogenesis and in the non-skeletogenic mesoderm, including altered numbers of pigment and blastocoelar cells, randomized left-right asymmetry of coelomic pouches, and disorganized circumesophageal muscle causing an inability to swallow. Together the data support the requirement of Hh signaling in patterning each of the mesoderm subtypes in the sea urchin embryo.
Hedgehog; Patched; Smoothened; morphogenesis; endoderm; mesoderm; signal transduction
Significant progress has been made toward understanding the role of fgf8 in directing early embryonic patterning of the pharyngeal skeleton. Considerably less is known about the role this growth factor plays in the coordinated development, growth, and remodeling of the craniofacial skeleton beyond embryonic stages. To better understand the contributions of fgf8 in the formation of adult craniofacial architecture, we analyzed the skeletal anatomy of adult aceti282a/fgf8 heterozygous zebrafish. Our results revealed distinct skeletal defects including facial asymmetries, aberrant craniofacial geometry, irregular patterns of cranial suturing, and ectopic bone formation. These defects are similar in presentation to several human craniofacial disorders (e.g., craniosynostosis, hemifacial microsomia), and may be related to increased levels of bone metabolism observed in aceti282a/fgf8 heterozygotes. Moreover, skeletal defects observed in aceti282a/fgf8 heterozygotes are consistent with expression patterns of fgf8 in the mature craniofacial skeleton. These data reveal previously unrecognized roles for fgf8 during skeletogenesis, and provide a basis for future investigations into the mechanisms that regulate craniofacial development beyond the embryo.
Craniofacial; fgf8; Asymmetry; Cranial Sutures; Morphometrics; Haploinsufficiency
FoxO1, one of the four FoxO isoforms of Forkhead transcription factors, is highly expressed in insulin-responsive tissues, including pancreas, liver, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, as well as in the skeleton. In all these tissues FoxO1 orchestrates the transcriptional cascades regulating glucose metabolism. Indeed, FoxO1 is a major target of insulin which inhibits its transcriptional activity via nuclear exclusion. In the pancreas, FoxO1 regulates β-cell formation and function by a balanced dual mode of action that suppresses β-cell proliferation but promotes survival. Hepatic glucose production is promoted and lipid metabolism is regulated by FoxO1 such that under insulin resistance they lead to hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia, two features of type 2 diabetes. In skeletal muscle FoxO1 maintains energy homeostasis during fasting and provides energy supply through breakdown of carbohydrates, a process that leads to atrophy and underlies glycemic control in insulin resistance. In a dual function, FoxO1 regulates energy and nutrient homeostasis though energy storage in white adipose tissue, but promotes energy expenditure in brown adipose tissue. In its most recently discovered novel role, FoxO1 acts as a transcriptional link between the skeleton and pancreas as well as other insulin target tissues to regulate energy homeostasis. Through its expression in osteoblasts it controls glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity and energy expenditure. In a feedback mode of regulation, FoxO1 is also a target of insulin signaling in osteoblasts. Insulin suppresses activity of osteoblastic FoxO1 thus promoting beneficial effects of osteoblasts on glucose metabolism. The multiple actions of FoxO1 in all glucose-regulating organs, along with clinical studies suggesting that its glycemic properties are conserved in humans, establish this transcription factor as a master regulator of energy metabolism across species.
FoxO1; glucose metabolism; energy homeostasis; skeleton; pancreas; muscle; liver; adipose tissue; osteoblasts
Objective. To compare the asymmetry displayed by Philippine, Colombian, and Ethiopian unaffected parents of patients with nonsyndromic cleft palate (NSCLP) and a control population. Methods. Facial measurements were compared between unaffected parents of NSCLP patients and those in the control group for three populations from South America, Asia, and Africa by anthropometric and photographic measurements. Fluctuating and directional asymmetries, height and width proportions, were analyzed and compared. Results. Fluctuating asymmetries (ear length, middle line to Zigion perpendicular for left and right sides) and variations in the facial thirds demonstrated statistical significance in the study group of unaffected parents from Colombia and Philippines, while increased interorbital distance was evident in the unaffected Ethiopian parents of NSCLP patients. Conclusions. The facial differences in unaffected parents could indicate an underlying genetic liability. Identification of these differences has relevance in the understanding of the etiology of NSCLP.
In 1982-1983, 144 muscle samples from 11 different species of wild carnivores from southwestern Quebec, Canada, were examined for the presence of Trichinella spiralis larvae, using direct microscopic examination and the peptic digestion method. Two red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) (out of 29) and one pine marten (Martes americana) (out of 56) were found positive, giving a 2.1% prevalence for the whole sample.
Trichinosis; Trichinella spiralis; skeletal muscles; wild carnivores; red fox (Vulpes vulpes); pine marten (Martes americana)
The bladderworm Pearsonema (syn Capillaria) plica affects domestic dogs and wild carnivores worldwide. A high prevalence in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) has been reported in many European countries. P. plica inhabits the lower urinary tract and is considered to be of low pathogenic significance in dogs mostly causing asymptomatic infections. However, a higher level of pathogenicity has been reported in foxes. A severe cystitis associated with numerous bladderworms was found in a captive arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) originating from the endangered Fennoscandian arctic fox population. To our knowledge this is the first description of P. plica infection in an arctic fox.
Pattern formation of the limb skeleton is regulated by a complex interplay of signaling centers located in the ectodermal sheath and mesenchymal core of the limb anlagen, which results, in the forelimb, in the coordinate array of humerus, radius, ulna, carpals, metacarpals and digits. Much less understood is why skeletal elements form only in the central mesenchyme of the limb, whereas muscle anlagen develop in the peripheral mesenchyme ensheathing the chondrogenic center. Classical studies have suggested a role of the limb ectoderm as a negative regulator of limb chondrogenesis.
In this paper, we investigated the molecular nature of the inhibitory influence of the ectoderm on limb chondrogenesis in the avian embryo in vivo. We show that ectoderm ablation in the early limb bud leads to increased and ectopic expression of early chondrogenic marker genes like Sox9 and Collagen II, indicating that the limb ectoderm inhibits limb chondrogenesis at an early stage of the chondrogenic cascade. To investigate the molecular nature of the inhibitory influence of the ectoderm, we ectopically expressed Wnt6, which is presently the only known Wnt expressed throughout the avian limb ectoderm, and found that Wnt6 overexpression leads to reduced expression of the early chondrogenic marker genes Sox9 and Collagen II.
Our results suggest that the inhibitory influence of the ectoderm on limb chondrogenesis acts on an early stage of chondrogenesis upsteam of Sox9 and Collagen II. We identify Wnt6 as a candidate mediator of ectodermal chondrogenic inhibition in vivo. We propose a model of Wnt-mediated centripetal patterning of the limb by the surface ectoderm.
The period following the withdrawal of parental care has been highlighted as a key developmental period for juveniles. One reason for this is that juveniles cannot forage as competently as adults, potentially placing them at greater risk from environmentally-induced changes in food availability. However, no study has examined this topic. Using a long-term dataset on red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), we examined (i) dietary changes that occurred in the one-month period following the attainment of nutritional independence, (ii) diet composition in relation to climatic variation, and (iii) the effect of climatic variation on subsequent full-grown mass. Diet at nutritional independence contained increased quantities of easy-to-catch food items (earthworms and insects) when compared with pre-independence. Interannual variation in the volume of rainfall at nutritional independence was positively correlated to the proportion of earthworms in cub diet. Pre-independence cub mass and rainfall immediately following nutritional independence explained a significant proportion of variance in full-grown mass, with environmental variation affecting full-grown mass of the entire cohorts. Thus, weather-mediated availability of easy-to-catch food items at a key developmental stage has lifelong implications for the development of juvenile foxes by affecting full-grown mass, which in turn appears to be an important component of individual reproductive potential.
climate variation; growth rate; invertebrates; Lumbricus terrestris; nutritional independence; phenotype
High-quality sequencing of the dog (Canis lupus familiaris) genome has enabled enormous progress in genetic mapping of canine phenotypic variation. The red fox (Vulpes vulpes), another canid species, also exhibits a wide range of variation in coat color, morphology, and behavior. Although the fox genome has not yet been sequenced, canine genomic resources have been used to construct a meiotic linkage map of the red fox genome and begin genetic mapping in foxes. However, a more detailed gene-specific comparative map between the dog and fox genomes is required to establish gene order within homologous regions of dog and fox chromosomes and to refine breakpoints between homologous chromosomes of the 2 species. In the current study, we tested whether canine-derived gene–containing bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones can be routinely used to build a gene-specific map of the red fox genome. Forty canine BAC clones were mapped to the red fox genome by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Each clone was uniquely assigned to a single fox chromosome, and the locations of 38 clones agreed with cytogenetic predictions. These results clearly demonstrate the utility of FISH mapping for construction of a whole-genome gene-specific map of the red fox. The further possibility of using canine BAC clones to map genes in the American mink (Mustela vison) genome was also explored. Much lower success was obtained for this more distantly related farm-bred species, although a few BAC clones were mapped to the predicted chromosomal locations.
Canis lupus familiaris; comparative genomics; FISH; Mustela vison; Vulpes vulpes