The telencephalon of tetrapods in evolution

Brain Behav Evol. 1997;49(4):179-213. doi: 10.1159/000112991.


Numerous scientists have sought a homologue of mammalian isocortex in sauropsids (reptiles and birds) and a homologue of sauropsid dorsal ventricular ridge in mammals. Although some of the proposed theories were enormously influential, alternative theories continued to coexist, primarily because the striking differences in pallial organization between adult mammals, sauropsids, and amphibians enabled different authors to enlist different subsets of similarity data in support of different hypotheses of putative homology. A phylogenetic analysis based on parsimony cannot discriminate between such alternative hypotheses of putative homology, because sauropsids and mammals are sister groups. One solution to this dilemma is to include embryological patterns of telencephalic organization in the comparative analysis. Because early developmental stages in different taxa tend to resemble each other more than the adults do, the embryological data may reveal intermediate patterns of organization that provide unambiguous support for a single hypothesis of putative homology. The validity of this putative homology may then be supported by means of a phylogenetic analysis based on parsimony. A comparative analysis of pallial organization that includes embryological data suggests the following set of homologies. The lateral cortex in reptiles is homologous to the piriform cortex in birds and mammals. The anterior dorsal ventricular ridge in reptiles is probably homologous to the neostriatum and ventral hyperstriatum in birds and to the endopiriform nucleus in mammals. The posterior dorsal ventricular ridge in reptiles is most likely homologous to the archistriatum in birds and to the pallial amygdala in mammals. The pallial thickening in reptiles is probably homologous to the dorsal and intercalated portions of the hyperstriatum in birds and to the claustrum proper in mammals. Finally, the dorsal cortex in reptiles is probably homologous to the accessory hyperstriatum and parahippocampal area in birds and to the isocortex in mammals. These hypotheses of homology imply relatively minor evolutionary changes in development but major changes in neuronal connections. Most significantly, they imply the independent elaboration of thalamic sensory projections to derivatives of the lateral and dorsal pallia in sauropsids and mammals, respectively. They also imply the independent evolution of lamination in the pallium of birds and mammals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Birds
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Globus Pallidus / anatomy & histology
  • Mammals
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Phylogeny*
  • Reptiles
  • Species Specificity
  • Telencephalon / anatomy & histology*