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Congenital Vertebral Defects

The spinal column is the central structure in the vertebrate body from which stability, movement, and posture all derive. The vertebrae of the spine are organized into four regions (listed in order from cranial to caudal): cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic. These regions are classified by their differences in curvature. The human spine usually consists of thirty-three vertebrae, seven of which are cervical (C1-C7), twelve are thoracic (T1-T12), five are lumbar (L1-L5), and nine are pelvic (five fused as the sacrum and four fused as the coccyx).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

The Hedgehog Signaling Pathway in Vertebrates 

The hedgehog signaling pathway is a mechanism that regulates cell growth and differentiation during embryonic development, called embryogenesis, in animals. The hedgehog signaling pathway works both between cells and within individual cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"Cell Deaths in Normal Vertebrate Ontogeny" (1951), by Alfred Glücksmann

The review article “Cell Deaths in Normal Vertebrate Ontogeny” (abbreviated as “Cell Deaths”) was published in Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophy Society in 1951. The author, Alfred Glücksmann, was a German developmental biologist then working at the Strangeways Research Laboratory, Cambridge, England. In “Cell Deaths,” Glücksmann summarizes observations about cell death in normal vertebrate development that he had compiled from literature published during the first half of the twentieth century.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Hox Genes and the Evolution of Vertebrate Axial Morphology Experiment (1995)

In 1995, researchers Ann Burke, Craig Nelson, Bruce Morgan, and Cliff Tabin in the US studied the genes that regulate the construction of vertebra in developing chick and mouse embryos, they showed similar patterns of gene regulation across both species, and they concluded that those patterns were inherited from an ancestor common to all vertebrate animals. The group analyzed the head-to-tail (anterior-posterior) axial development of vertebrates, as the anterior-posterior axis showed variation between species over the course of evolutionary time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Felix Anton Dohrn

Felix Anton Dohrn is best remembered as the founder of the Stazione Zoologica di Napoli, the world' s first permanent laboratory devoted to the study of marine organisms. Dohrn was born on 29 December 1840 in Stettin, Pomerania (now Poland), to a wealthy merchant family. Dohrn's paternal grandfather, Heinrich, trained as a surgeon and then established a sugar refinery, while Dohrn's father, Carl August Dohrn, who inherited the family business, became interested in natural history through Alexander von Humboldt, a family friend.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Development of the Neural Crest and the Migration of Neural Crest Cells (NCCs) in the Embryos of Various Vertebrates

This diagram shows how NCCs migrate differently in rats, birds and amphibians. The arrows represent both chronology of NCCs migration and the differential paths that NCCs follow in different classes of animals. The solid black portion of each illustration represents the neural crest, and the large black dots in (c) and in (f) represent the neural crest cells. The speckled sections that at first form a basin in (a) and then close to form a tube in (f) represent the neural ectoderm. The solid white portions represent the epidermal ectoderm.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Processes

Hensen's Node

A node, or primitive knot, is an enlarged group of cells located in the anterior portion of the primitive streak in a developing gastrula. The node is the site where gastrulation, the formation of the three germ layers, first begins. The node determines and patterns the anterior-posterior axis of the embryo by directing the development of the chordamesoderm. The chordamesoderm is a specific type of mesoderm that will differentiate into the notochord, somites, and neural tube. Those structures will later form the vertebral column.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Nicole Le Douarin and Charles Ordahl's Experiments on the Developmental Lineages of Somites

Through various studies developmental biologists have been able to determine that the muscles of the back, ribs, and limbs derive from somites. Somites are blocks of cells that contain distinct sections that diverge into specific types (axial or limb) of musculature and are an essential part of early vertebrate development. For many years the musculature of vertebrates was known to derive from the somites, but the exact developmental lineage of axial and limb muscle progenitor cells remained a mystery until Nicole Le Douarin and Charles P.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Process of Gastrulation in Frog Embryos

Illustration of the movement of the three hemispheres of cells, the animal cap (dark green) the marginal zone (lime green) and the ventral cap (yellow) during frog gastrulation. The external view column (images a.1-a.6) shows gastrulation as it occurs on the outside of the embryo. The cross-section view column (images b.1-b.6) shows the internal view of gastrulation. The cross-sections are through the middle of the embryo.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Processes, Organisms, Theories

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

In nineteenth century Great Britain, Thomas Henry Huxley proposed connections between the development of organisms and their evolutionary histories, critiqued previously held concepts of homology, and promoted Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Many called him Darwin's Bulldog. Huxley helped professionalize and redefine British science. He wrote about philosophy, religion, and social issues, and researched and theorized in many biological fields.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Neurocristopathies

Neurocristopathies are a class of pathologies in vertebrates,
including humans, that result from abnormal expression, migration,
differentiation, or death of neural crest cells (NCCs) during embryonic development. NCCs are cells
derived from the embryonic cellular structure called the neural crest.
Abnormal NCCs can cause a neurocristopathy by chemically affecting the
development of the non-NCC tissues around them. They can also affect the
development of NCC tissues, causing defective migration or

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

William Withey Gull (1816-1890)

William Withey Gull studied paraplegia, anorexia, and hormones as a physician in England during the nineteenth century. In addition to caring for patients, he described the role of the posterior column of the spinal cord in paraplegia, and he was among the first to describe the conditions of anorexia and of hypochondria. He also researched the effects of thyroid hormone deficiencies in women who had malfunctioning thyroid glands.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Game of Life, by John Horton Conway

The Game of Life, or just Life, is a one-person game that was created by the English mathematician John Horton Conway in the late 1960s. It is a simple representation of birth, death, development, and evolution in a population of living organisms, such as bacteria. Martin Gardner popularized the Game of Life by writing two articles for his column "Mathematical Games" in the journal Scientific American in 1970 and 1971. There exist several websites that provide the Game of Life as a download or as an online game.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Neural Crest

Early in the process of development, vertebrate embryos develop a fold on the neural plate where the neural and epidermal ectoderms meet, called the neural crest. The neural crest produces neural crest cells (NCCs), which become multiple different cell types and contribute to tissues and organs as an embryo develops. A few of the organs and tissues include peripheral and enteric (gastrointestinal) neurons and glia, pigment cells, cartilage and bone of the cranium and face, and smooth muscle.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Viktor Hamburger's Study of Central-Peripheral Relations in the Development of Nervous System

An important question throughout the history of embryology is whether the formation of a biological structure is predetermined or shaped by its environment. If both intrinsic and environmental controls occur, how exactly do the two processes coordinate in crafting specific forms and functions? When Viktor Hamburger started his PhD study in embryology in the 1920s, few neuroembryologists were investigating how the central neurons innervate peripheral organs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Samuel Randall Detwiler (1890-1957)

Samuel Randall Detwiler was an embryologist who studied neural development in embryos and vertebrate retinas. He discovered evidence for the relationship between somites and spinal ganglia, that transplanted limbs can be controlled by foreign ganglia, and the plasticity of ganglia in response to limb transplantations. He also extensively studied vertebrate retinas during and after embryonic development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Somites: Formation and Role in Developing the Body Plan

Somites are blocks of mesoderm that are located on either side of the neural tube in the developing vertebrate embryo. Somites are precursor populations of cells that give rise to important structures associated with the vertebrate body plan and will eventually differentiate into dermis, skeletal muscle, cartilage, tendons, and vertebrae. Somites also determine the migratory paths of neural crest cells and of the axons of spinal nerves.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

The Carapacial Ridge of Turtles

Two main elements characterize the skeletal morphology of turtles: the carapace and the plastron. For a turtle, the carapacial ridge begins in the embryo as a bulge posterior to the limbs but on both sides of the body. Such outgrowths are the first indication of shell development in turtle embryos. While the exact mechanisms underpinning the formation of the carapacial ridge are still not entirely known, some biologists argue that understanding these embryonic mechanisms is pivotal to explaining both the development of turtles and their evolutionary history.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Twice Born–Stories from the Special Delivery Unit (2015), by the Public Broadcasting Service and Trailblazer Studios

In 2015, the Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, released a three-part documentary series, Twice Born–Stories from the Special Delivery Unit, hereafter Twice Born, that follows several pregnant women and their experiences with fetal surgery. Trailblazer Studios produced the film, which predominantly features two women, although it includes the stories of many women. The two main women are pregnant with fetuses diagnosed with physical deformities. One woman’s fetus is diagnosed with spina bifida, an incomplete closure of the fetus’s spinal column.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Management of Myelomeningocele Study Clinical Trial (2003–2010)

From February 2003 to December 2010, researchers of the Management of Myelomeningocele Study, or MOMS, clinical trial compared the safety and efficacy of different treatments for a specific type of spina bifida, called myelomeningocele. Myelomeningocele, the most frequent and severe form of spina bifida, is a condition in which the bony spinal column does not develop correctly, which causes an opening of the spine, exposure of the spinal cord, and formation of a small sac containing cerebrospinal fluid.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Karl Ernst von Baer's Laws of Embryology

In 1828, while working at the University of Konigsberg in Konigsberg, Germany Karl Ernst von Baer proposed four laws of animal development, which came to be called von Baer's laws of embryology. With these laws, von Baer described the development (ontogeny) of animal embryos while also critiquing popular theories of animal development at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Acid Dissolution of Fossil Dinosaur Eggs

Acid dissolution is a technique of removing a fossil from the surrounding rock matrix in which it is encased by dissolving that matrix with acid. Fossilized bone, though strong enough to be preserved for thousands or millions of years, is often more delicate than rock. Once a fossil is discovered, scientists must remove the fossil from its surroundings without damaging the fossil itself.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Franz Julius Keibel (1861-1929)

Franz Keibel studied the embryos of humans and other animals in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. He lived and worked in several different parts of Germany and France. Keibel drew illustrations of embryos in many stages of development. Keibel used these illustrations, which he and others in the scientific community called normal plates, to describe the development of organisms in several species of vertebrates.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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