England's King Richard III, whose skeleton was recently discovered lying ignobly beneath a parking lot, suffered from a lateral curvature of his spinal column called scoliosis. We now know that his scoliosis was not caused by 'imbalanced bodily humors', rather vertebral defects arise from defects in embryonic elongation and segmentation. This review highlights recent advances in our understanding of post-gastrulation biomechanics of the posteriorly advancing tailbud and somite morphogenesis. These processes are beginning to be deciphered from the level of gene networks to a cross-scale physical model incorporating cellular mechanics, the extracellular matrix, and tissue fluidity.
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