Indeterminate Growth: Could It Represent the Ancestral Condition?

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2015 Jul 27;8(2):a019174. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a019174.


Although we are used to the idea that many organisms stop growing when they reach a predictable size, in many taxa, growth occurs throughout the life of an organism, a phenomenon referred to as indeterminate growth. Our comparative analysis suggests that indeterminate growth may indeed represent the ancestral condition, whereas the permanent arrest of growth may be a more derived state. Consistent with this idea, in diverse taxa, the basal branches show indeterminate growth, whereas more derived branches arrest their growth. Importantly, in some closely related taxa, the termination of growth has evolved in mechanistically distinct ways. Also, even within a single organism, different organs can differ with respect to whether they terminate their growth or not. Finally, the study of tooth development indicates that, even at the level of a single tissue, multiple determinate patterns of growth can evolve from an ancestral one that is indeterminate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Invertebrates / growth & development*
  • Tooth / growth & development
  • Vertebrates / growth & development*