Fossils, genes and the evolution of animal limbs

Nature. 1997 Aug 14;388(6643):639-48. doi: 10.1038/41710.


The morphological and functional evolution of appendages has played a crucial role in the adaptive radiation of tetrapods, arthropods and winged insects. The origin and diversification of fins, wings and other structures, long a focus of palaeontology, can now be approached through developmental genetics. Modifications of appendage number and architecture in each phylum are correlated with regulatory changes in specific patterning genes. Although their respective evolutionary histories are unique, vertebrate, insect and other animal appendages are organized by a similar genetic regulatory system that may have been established in a common ancestor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Arthropods
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Extremities*
  • Fossils*
  • Genes, Homeobox
  • Vertebrates