What originally appeared to be only an external cast of an anuran ‘mummy’ from the Quercy Phosphorites (southwestern France) was described as Rana plicata during the 19th century. Its geographical provenance is only vaguely known; therefore its precise age within the Paleogene was uncertain. The taxon was erected on the basis of the external morphology of the specimen, which includes few diagnostic characters. As a further complication, the name Rana plicata was recently shown to be unavailable at the time of the description, and the name Rana cadurcorum was proposed as a replacement. In order to see whether internal features were fossilized, the fossil was CT scanned. This showed that a large part of the skeleton is preserved. Unexpectedly, the scans revealed that the skull of the mummy is almost identical to that of Thaumastosaurus gezei, another anuran from the late middle or late Eocene of the Quercy Phosphorites. The few observed differences are attributable to intraspecific and ontogenetic variation, and R. cadurcorum is a junior subjective synonym of T. gezei. The mummy is therefore probably from the same time interval as T. gezei. The latter was previously known only by its skull, but the mummy provides important information on the postcranial skeleton. Earlier assessments, based only on the skull, placed Thaumastosaurus close to South American hyloid anurans, but a new phylogenetic analysis including postcranial characters reveals ranoid affinities. This study exemplifies the usefulness of modern imaging technologies that allow non-destructive study of previously inaccessible internal anatomical features.
Computer-based simulation techniques such as multi-body dynamics analysis are becoming increasingly popular in the field of skull mechanics. Multi-body models can be used for studying the relationships between skull architecture, muscle morphology and feeding performance. However, to be confident in the modelling results, models need to be validated against experimental data, and the effects of uncertainties or inaccuracies in the chosen model attributes need to be assessed with sensitivity analyses. Here, we compare the bite forces predicted by a multi-body model of a lizard (Tupinambis merianae) with in vivo measurements, using anatomical data collected from the same specimen. This subject-specific model predicts bite forces that are very close to the in vivo measurements and also shows a consistent increase in bite force as the bite position is moved posteriorly on the jaw. However, the model is very sensitive to changes in muscle attributes such as fibre length, intrinsic muscle strength and force orientation, with bite force predictions varying considerably when these three variables are altered. We conclude that accurate muscle measurements are crucial to building realistic multi-body models and that subject-specific data should be used whenever possible.
bite force; multi-body dynamics analysis; skull; feeding; validation; Tupinambis
Sea turtles (Chelonoidea) are a charismatic group of marine reptiles that occupy a range of important ecological roles. However, the diversity and evolution of their feeding anatomy remain incompletely known.
Using computed tomography and classical comparative anatomy we describe the cranial anatomy in two sea turtles, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), for a better understanding of sea turtle functional anatomy and morphological variation. In both taxa the temporal region of the skull is enclosed by bone and the jaw joint structure and muscle arrangement indicate that palinal jaw movement is possible. The tongue is relatively small, and the hyoid apparatus is not as conspicuous as in some freshwater aquatic turtles. We find several similarities between the muscles of C. caretta and L. kempii, but comparison with other turtles suggests only one of these characters may be derived: connection of the m. adductor mandibulae internus into the Pars intramandibularis via the Zwischensehne. The large fleshy origin of the m. adductor mandibulae externus Pars superficialis from the jugal seems to be a characteristic feature of sea turtles.
In C. caretta and L. kempii the ability to suction feed does not seem to be as well developed as that found in some freshwater aquatic turtles. Instead both have skulls suited to forceful biting. This is consistent with the observation that both taxa tend to feed on relatively slow moving but sometimes armoured prey. The broad fleshy origin of the m. adductor mandibulae externus Pars superficialis may be linked to thecheek region being almost fully enclosed in bone but the relationship is complex.
The vertebrate skull evolved to protect the brain and sense organs, but with the appearance of jaws and associated forces there was a remarkable structural diversification. This suggests that the evolution of skull form may be linked to these forces, but an important area of debate is whether bone in the skull is minimised with respect to these forces, or whether skulls are mechanically “over-designed” and constrained by phylogeny and development. Mechanical analysis of diapsid reptile skulls could shed light on this longstanding debate. Compared to those of mammals, the skulls of many extant and extinct diapsids comprise an open framework of fenestrae (window-like openings) separated by bony struts (e.g., lizards, tuatara, dinosaurs and crocodiles), a cranial form thought to be strongly linked to feeding forces. We investigated this link by utilising the powerful engineering approach of multibody dynamics analysis to predict the physiological forces acting on the skull of the diapsid reptile Sphenodon. We then ran a series of structural finite element analyses to assess the correlation between bone strain and skull form. With comprehensive loading we found that the distribution of peak von Mises strains was particularly uniform throughout the skull, although specific regions were dominated by tensile strains while others were dominated by compressive strains. Our analyses suggest that the frame-like skulls of diapsid reptiles are probably optimally formed (mechanically ideal: sufficient strength with the minimal amount of bone) with respect to functional forces; they are efficient in terms of having minimal bone volume, minimal weight, and also minimal energy demands in maintenance.
The relationship between skull shape and the forces generated during feeding is currently under widespread scrutiny and increasingly involves the use of computer simulations such as finite element analysis. The computer models used to represent skulls are often based on computed tomography data and thus are structurally accurate; however, correctly representing muscular loading during food reduction remains a major problem. Here, we present a novel approach for predicting the forces and activation patterns of muscles and muscle groups based on their known anatomical orientation (line of action). The work was carried out for the lizard-like reptile Sphenodon (Rhynchocephalia) using a sophisticated computer-based model and multi-body dynamics analysis. The model suggests that specific muscle groups control specific motions, and that during certain times in the bite cycle some muscles are highly active whereas others are inactive. The predictions of muscle activity closely correspond to data previously recorded from live Sphenodon using electromyography. Apparent exceptions can be explained by variations in food resistance, food size, food position and lower jaw motions. This approach shows considerable promise in advancing detailed functional models of food acquisition and reduction, and for use in other musculoskeletal systems where no experimental determination of muscle activity is possible, such as in rare, endangered or extinct species.
muscle activation; multi-body modelling; skull loading; food handling; feeding
Nanophthalmos is a rare genetic ocular disorder in which the eyes of affected individuals are abnormally small. Patients suffer from severe hyperopia as a result of their markedly reduced axial lengths, but otherwise are capable of seeing well unlike other more general forms of microphthalmia. To date one gene for nanophthalmos has been identified, encoding the membrane-type frizzled related protein MFRP. Identification of additional genes for nanophthalmos will improve our understanding of normal developmental regulation of eye growth.
We ascertained a cohort of families from eastern Canada and Mexico with familial nanophthalmos. We performed high density microsatellite and high density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping to identify potential chromosomal regions of linkage. We sequenced coding regions of genes in the linked interval by traditional PCR-based Sanger capillary electrophoresis methods. We cloned and sequenced a novel cDNA from a putative causal gene to verify gene structure.
We identified a linked locus on chromosome 2q37 with a peak logarithm (base 10) of odds (LOD) score of 4.7. Sequencing of coding exons of all genes in the region identified multiple segregating variants in one gene, recently annotated as serine protease gene (PRSS56), coding for a predicted trypsin serine protease-like protein. One of our families was homozygous for a predicted pathogenic missense mutation, one family was compound heterozygous for two predicted pathogenic missense mutations, and one family was compound heterozygous for a predicted pathogenic missense mutation plus a frameshift leading to obligatory truncation of the predicted protein. The PRSS56 gene structure in public databases is based on a virtual transcript assembled from overlapping incomplete cDNA clones; we have now validated the structure of a full-length transcript from embryonic mouse brain RNA.
PRSS56 is a good candidate for the causal gene for nanophthalmos in our families.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) represents a family of related sensorimotor neuropathies. We studied a large family from a rural eastern Canadian community, with multiple individuals suffering from a condition clinically most similar to autosomal recessive axonal CMT, or AR-CMT2. Homozygosity mapping with high-density SNP genotyping of six affected individuals from the family excluded 23 known genes for various subtypes of CMT and instead identified a single homozygous region on chromosome 9, at 122,423,730–129,841,977 Mbp, shared identical by state in all six affected individuals. A homozygous pathogenic variant was identified in the gene encoding leucine rich repeat and sterile alpha motif 1 (LRSAM1) by direct DNA sequencing of genes within the region in affected DNA samples. The single nucleotide change mutates an intronic consensus acceptor splicing site from AG to AA. Direct analysis of RNA from patient blood demonstrated aberrant splicing of the affected exon, causing an obligatory frameshift and premature truncation of the protein. Western blotting of immortalized cells from a homozygous patient showed complete absence of detectable protein, consistent with the splice site defect. LRSAM1 plays a role in membrane vesicle fusion during viral maturation and for proper adhesion of neuronal cells in culture. Other ubiquitin ligases play documented roles in neurodegenerative diseases. LRSAM1 is a strong candidate for the causal gene for the genetic disorder in our kindred.
Sensory motor neuropathies are diseases of the peripheral nervous system, involving primarily the nerves which control our muscles. These can result from either genetic or non-genetic causes, with genetic causes usually referred to as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease after the three clinicians who first described the key diagnostic markers. CMT patients lose muscle function, mainly in their arms and legs, with increasing severity during their lives. There are almost two dozen known genes that can mutate to cause CMT, and these fall into a wide variety of biochemical cellular pathways. We identified a group of patients with CMT from a small rural community, with good reason to suspect a genetic basis for their disease. Using high-throughput mapping and DNA sequencing technologies developed as part of the Human Genome Project, we were able to find the likely mutated gene, which was not any of the previously known CMT genes. Based on its sequence, the gene, called LRSAM1, probably plays a role in the correct metabolism of other proteins in the cell. Among the known CMT genes, some are also involved in protein metabolism, suggesting that this is a generally important pathway in the neurons that control muscle activity.
Jaws and dentition closely resembling those of the extant tuatara (Sphenodon) are described from the Manuherikia Group (Early Miocene; 19–16 million years ago, Mya) of Central Otago, New Zealand. This material is significant in bridging a gap of nearly 70 million years in the rhynchocephalian fossil record between the Late Pleistocene of New Zealand and the Late Cretaceous of Argentina. It provides the first pre-Pleistocene record of Rhynchocephalia in New Zealand, a finding consistent with the view that the ancestors of Sphenodon have been on the landmass since it separated from the rest of Gondwana 82–60 Mya. However, if New Zealand was completely submerged near the Oligo-Miocene boundary (25–22 Mya), as recently suggested, an ancestral sphenodontine would need to have colonized the re-emergent landmass via ocean rafting from a currently unrecorded and now extinct Miocene population. Although an Early Miocene record does not preclude that possibility, it substantially reduces the temporal window of opportunity. Irrespective of pre-Miocene biogeographic history, this material also provides the first direct evidence that the ancestors of the tuatara, an animal often perceived as unsophisticated, survived in New Zealand despite substantial local climatic and environmental changes.
biogeography; fossil; Gondwana; Miocene; Rhynchocephalia; Sphenodontinae
The discovery of a new stem turtle from the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian) deposits of the Isle of Skye, Scotland, sheds new light on the early evolutionary history of Testudinata. Eileanchelys waldmani gen. et sp. nov. is known from cranial and postcranial material of several individuals and represents the most complete Middle Jurassic turtle described to date, bridging the morphological gap between basal turtles from the Late Triassic–Early Jurassic and crown-group turtles that diversify during the Late Jurassic. A phylogenetic analysis places the new taxon within the stem group of Testudines (crown-group turtles) and suggests a sister-group relationship between E. waldmani and Heckerochelys romani from the Middle Jurassic of Russia. Moreover, E. waldmani also demonstrates that stem turtles were ecologically diverse, as it may represent the earliest known aquatic turtle.
Testudinata; Eileanchelys waldmani; Middle Jurassic; Late Bathonian; phylogeny; palaeoecology
Sutures form an integral part of the functioning skull, but their role has long been debated among vertebrate morphologists and palaeontologists. Furthermore, the relationship between typical skull sutures, and those involved in cranial kinesis, is poorly understood. In a series of computational modelling studies, complex loading conditions obtained through multibody dynamics analysis were imposed on a finite element model of the skull of Uromastyx hardwickii, an akinetic herbivorous lizard. A finite element analysis (FEA) of a skull with no sutures revealed higher patterns of strain in regions where cranial sutures are located in the skull. From these findings, FEAs were performed on skulls with sutures (individual and groups of sutures) to investigate their role and function more thoroughly. Our results showed that individual sutures relieved strain locally, but only at the expense of elevated strain in other regions of the skull. These findings provide an insight into the behaviour of sutures and show how they are adapted to work together to distribute strain around the skull. Premature fusion of one suture could therefore lead to increased abnormal loading on other regions of the skull causing irregular bone growth and deformities. This detailed investigation also revealed that the frontal–parietal suture of the Uromastyx skull played a substantial role in relieving strain compared with the other sutures. This raises questions about the original role of mesokinesis in squamate evolution.
suture; finite element analysis; Squamata; cranial kinesis
Hypoxia is a common microenvironment in solid tumors and is correlated with tumor progression by regulating cancer cell survival. Recent studies suggest that activation of double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase-like endoplasmic reticulum-related kinase (PERK) and phosphorylation of α subunit of eIF2 (eIF2α) confer cell adaptation to hypoxic stress. However, eIF2α is still phosphorylated at a lowered level in PERK knockout cells under hypoxic conditions. The mechanism for eIF2α kinase(s) (eIF2AK)-increased cell survival is not clear. In this report, we provide evidence that another eIF2AK, the amino acid starvation-dependent general control of amino acid biosynthesis kinase (GCN2), is also involved in hypoxia-induced eIF2α phosphorylation. We demonstrate that both GCN2 and PERK mediate the cell adaptation to hypoxic stress. High levels of eIF2α phosphorylation lead to G1 arrest and protect cells from hypoxia-induced apoptosis. Reduced phosphorylation of eIF2α by knocking out either PERK or GCN2 suppresses hypoxia-induced G1 arrest and promotes apoptosis in accompany with activation of p53 signal cascade. However, totally abolishing phosphorylation of eIF2α inhibits G1 arrest without promoting apoptosis. On the basis of our results, we propose that the levels of eIF2α phosphorylation serve as a “switch” in regulation of G1 arrest or apoptosis under hypoxic conditions.
Until recently, it was considered axiomatic that the skull of lizards and snakes arose from that of a diapsid ancestor by loss of the lower temporal bar. The presence of the bar in the living New Zealand Tuatara, Sphenodon, was thus considered primitive, corroborating its status as a ‘living fossil’. A combination of new fossils and rigorous phylogeny has demonstrated unequivocally that the absence of the bar is the primitive lepidosaurian condition, prompting questions as to its function. Here we describe new material of Tianyusaurus, a remarkable lizard from the Late Cretaceous of China that is paradoxical in having a complete lower temporal bar and a fixed quadrate. New material from Jiangxi Province is more complete and less distorted than the original holotype. Tianyusaurus is shown to be a member of the Boreoteiioidea, a successful clade of large herbivorous lizards that were dispersed through eastern Asia, Europe and North America in the Late Cretaceous, but disappeared in the end-Cretaceous extinction. A unique combination of characters suggests that Tianyusaurus took food items requiring a large gape.
lizard; lower temporal bar; Tianyusaurus; boreoteiioid; China
Schnyder crystalline corneal dystrophy (SCCD, MIM 121800) is a rare autosomal dominant disease characterized by progressive opacification of the cornea resulting from the local accumulation of lipids, and associated in some cases with systemic dyslipidemia. Although previous studies of the genetics of SCCD have localized the defective gene to a 1.58 Mbp interval on chromosome 1p, exhaustive sequencing of positional candidate genes has thus far failed to reveal causal mutations. We have ascertained a large multigenerational family in Nova Scotia affected with SCCD in which we have confirmed linkage to the same general area of chromosome 1. Intensive fine mapping in our family revealed a 1.3 Mbp candidate interval overlapping that previously reported. Sequencing of genes in our interval led to the identification of five putative causal mutations in gene UBIAD1, in our family as well as in four other small families of various geographic origins. UBIAD1 encodes a potential prenyltransferase, and is reported to interact physically with apolipoprotein E. UBIAD1 may play a direct role in intracellular cholesterol biochemistry, or may prenylate other proteins regulating cholesterol transport and storage.
TOC Summary Line: Healthcare workers in hospitals affected by SARS experience increased psychological stress 1–2 years after the outbreak.
Healthcare workers (HCWs) found the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to be stressful, but the long-term impact is not known. From 13 to 26 months after the SARS outbreak, 769 HCWs at 9 Toronto hospitals that treated SARS patients and 4 Hamilton hospitals that did not treat SARS patients completed a survey of several adverse outcomes. Toronto HCWs reported significantly higher levels of burnout (p = 0.019), psychological distress (p<0.001), and posttraumatic stress (p<0.001). Toronto workers were more likely to have reduced patient contact and work hours and to report behavioral consequences of stress. Variance in adverse outcomes was explained by a protective effect of the perceived adequacy of training and support and by a provocative effect of maladaptive coping style and other individual factors. The results reinforce the value of effective staff support and training in preparation for future outbreaks.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; Stress, Psychological; Health Personnel; Stress, Traumatic; Burnout, Professional, research