Neuronal control of muscles associated with the central body axis is an ancient and essential function of the nervous systems of most animal species. Throughout the course of vertebrate evolution, motor circuits dedicated to control of axial muscle have undergone significant changes in their roles within the motor system. In most fish species, axial circuits are critical for coordinating muscle activation sequences essential for locomotion and play important roles in postural correction. In tetrapods, axial circuits have evolved unique functions essential to terrestrial life, including maintaining spinal alignment and breathing. Despite the diverse roles of axial neural circuits in motor behaviors, the genetic programs underlying their assembly are poorly understood. In this review, we describe recent studies that have shed light on the development of axial motor circuits and compare and contrast the strategies used to wire these neural networks in aquatic and terrestrial vertebrate species.
Keywords: Axial muscle; Development; Evolution; Motor neuron; Neural circuit; Spinal circuit.