Squamates constitute a major vertebrate radiation, representing almost one-third of all known amniotes. Although speciose and morphologically diverse, they remain poorly represented in developmental studies. Here, we present an embryonic staging table of in ovo development for the basal gekkotan Eublepharis macularius (the leopard gecko) and advocate this species as a laboratory-appropriate developmental model. E. macularius, is a hardy and tractable species of relatively large body size (with concomitantly relatively large eggs and embryos), that is widely available and easy to maintain and propagate. Additionally, E. macularius displays a body plan appropriate to the study of the plesiomorphic quadrupedal condition of early pentadactylous terrestrial amniotes. Although not unexpected, it is worth noting that the morphological events characterizing limb development in E. macularius are comparable with those described for the avian Gallus gallus. Therefore, E. macularius holds great promise as a model for developmental studies focusing on pentadactyly and the formation of digits. Furthermore, it is also attractive as a developmental model because it demonstrates temperature-dependent sex determination. The staging table presented herein is based on an all-female series and represents the entire 52 day in ovo period. Overall, embryogenesis of E. macularius is similar to that of other squamates in terms of developmental stage attained at the time of oviposition, patterns of limb and pharyngeal arch development, and features of the appearance of scalation and pigmentation, indicative of a conserved developmental program.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.