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From fish to modern humans - Comparative anatomy, homologies and evolution of the head and neck musculature

Oct 1, 2008

In a recent paper Diogo (2008) reported the results of the first part of an investigation of the comparative anatomy, homologies and evolution of the head and neck muscles of osteichthyans (bony fish + tetrapods). That report mainly focused on actinopterygian fish, but also compared these fish with certain non-mammalian sarcopterygians. The present paper focuses mainly on sarcopterygians, and particularly on how the head and neck muscles have evolved during the transitions from sarcopterygian fish and non-mammalian tetrapods to monotreme and therian mammals, including modern humans. The data obtained from our dissections of the head and neck muscles of representative members of sarcopterygian fish, amphibians, reptiles, monotremes and therian mammals, such as rodents, tree-shrews, colugos and primates, including modern humans, are compared with the information available in the literature. Our observations and comparisons indicate that the number of mandibular and true branchial muscles (sensu this work) present in modern humans is smaller than that found in mammals such as tree-shrews, rats and monotremes, as well as in reptiles such as lizards. Regarding the pharyngeal musculature, there is an increase in the number of muscles at the time of the evolutionary transition leading to therian mammals, but there was no significant increase during the transition leading to the emergence of higher primates and modern humans. The number of hypobranchial muscles is relatively constant within the therian mammals we examined, although in this case modern humans have more muscles than other mammals. The number of laryngeal and facial muscles in modern humans is greater than that found in most other therian taxa. Interestingly, modern humans possess peculiar laryngeal and facial muscles that are not present in the majority of the other mammalian taxa; this seems to corroborate the crucial role played by vocal communication and by facial expressions in primate and especially in human evolution. It is hoped that by compiling, in one paper, data about the head and neck muscles of a wide range of sarcopterygians, the present work could be useful to comparative anatomists, evolutionary biologists and functional morphologists and to researchers working in other fields such as developmental biology, genetics and/or evolutionary developmental biology.

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