An atlas of notochord and somite morphogenesis in several anuran and urodelean amphibians

J Embryol Exp Morphol. 1980 Oct;59:223-47.


A scanning electron microscopic, comparative survey of notochord and somite formation including some details of change in cell morphology and arrangement, was made of selected stages of two species of anuran amphibians (Xenopus laevis and Rana pipiens) and two species of urodeles (Ambystoma mexicanum and Pleurodeles waltlii). The ectoderm or neural plate was removed from fixed embryos and the dorsal aspect of the developing notochord and somite mesoderm was photographed. Micrographs of comparable stages of all species were arranged together to form an atlas of notochord and somite formation. Similar morphogenetic events occur in the same sequence in the four species. Notochordal cells become distinguishable from paraxial mesodermal cells by shape, closeness of packing, and arrangement. Notochordal elongation is accompanied by a decrease in cross-sectional area and by cell rearrangement. Somitic mesoderm becomes distinguished from lateral mesoderm by a change in cell shape and orientation, followed by segmentation of somites. The schedule of somite formation was compared and related to the staging series for each species. The urodeles differ from the anurans in that the notochordal region in the early neurula stages in triangular, with the broadest part in the posterior region of the embryo. In anurans it is uniform in width. This difference may reflect differences in gastrulation and in the mechanism of elongation of the posterior part of the embryo in the neurula.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambystoma mexicanum / embryology
  • Animals
  • Anura / embryology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / ultrastructure*
  • Mesoderm / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Morphogenesis
  • Notochord / ultrastructure*
  • Pleurodeles / embryology
  • Rana pipiens / embryology
  • Urodela / embryology*
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology