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Fins into Limbs

Evolution, Development, and Transformation

Long ago, fish fins evolved into the limbs of land vertebrates and tetrapods. During this transition, some elements of the fin were carried over while new features developed. Lizard limbs, bird wings, and human arms and legs are therefore all evolutionary modifications of the original tetrapod limb. 

A comprehensive look at the current state of research on fin and limb evolution and development, this volume addresses a wide range of subjects—including growth, structure, maintenance, function, and regeneration. Divided into sections on evolution, development, and transformations, the book begins with a historical introduction to the study of fins and limbs and goes on to consider the evolution of limbs into wings as well as adaptations associated with specialized modes of life, such as digging and burrowing. Fins into Limbs also discusses occasions when evolution appears to have been reversed—in whales, for example, whose front limbs became flippers when they reverted to the water—as well as situations in which limbs are lost, such as in snakes.

With contributions from world-renowned researchers, Fins into Limbs will be a font for further investigations in the changing field of evolutionary developmental biology.

344 pages | 40 color plates, 32 halftones, 138 line drawings, 6 tables | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2006

Biological Sciences: Anatomy, Biology--Systematics, Evolutionary Biology, Paleobiology, Geology, and Paleontology, Physiology, Biomechanics, and Morphology


“In this important synthetic review, Hall and the thirty-seven authorities he has assembled have succeeded in capturing the quantum advances made by functional morphologists, developmental biologists, evolutionary scientists, and vertebrate paleontologists in explaining the origin and diversification of fins and limbs. This review is unparalleled in its depth, scope and scholarship and is indispensable for any student interested in unraveling new complexities hidden in the developing as well as adult fin and limb. The reader will discover important new paths of inquiry; conceptually and technically, this book actually covers more than the title implies and is a must for any seminar course dealing with form, function, and evolution of vertebrates.”

Karel F. Liem, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

“Variation and selection at the population level are no longer the central unexplored questions in evolution. Today, advances in genetics and development are steadily drawing us closer to an understanding of the origins of the phenotype and the generation of major morphological innovations. One of the cases where work is now well advanced involves finding causal links in the genetics, morphogenesis, and evolutionary transformations of the fish fin and tetrapod limb. This new book shows how much has been accomplished in this exciting field, and how many opportunities remain.”

Keith S. Thomson, professor emeritus, University of Oxford

“Evo-devo—and more importantly, evo-devo-paleo—is the cutting edge of biological and evolutionary science. This collection of empirical and theoretical reviews is timely and necessary, and the choice of authors is excellent. Fins into Limbs is a must-have for anyone with even a passing interest in any one or all of the disciplines of evolution, developmental biology, or paleontology.”

Michael Caldwell, University of Alberta

Fins into Limbs is an exploration of a longstanding evolutionary puzzle associated with the origin of tetrapods and the vertebrate invasion of land. Brian Hall has assembled a stellar array of contributors from various fields that represent the pieces necessary for a solution. The volume is handsomely executed and also timely. It collects a diverse body of recent research on fins and limbs emerging from evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), functional morphology, and paleontology, all of which have transformed our conception of what the fin-limb transition looked like....Fins into Limbs serves as a necessary reference and a worthy guide to future research on this and other evolutionary transitions. It tells us what we know, what we don’t know, and what we’d really like to know. Thus it points us in the direction of which pieces are required to solve the puzzle and reminds us of the pressing need to figure out how they all fit together."

Alan C. Love | Science

"We are now at a point where the more experimental, mechanistic approaches that have previously been restricted to studies of model organisms must be applied more broadly. . . . To this end, in driving a new era of research in skeletal biology, Fins into Limbs is a great success."

Mark W. Hamrick | Journal of Mammal Evolution

"The book is a fine compilation and essential reading for a broad range of natural scientists, from embryologists to paleontologists, and genticists to philosophers."

Michael J. Benton | Evolution and Development

Table of Contents


Brian K. Hall

Part I. Evolution

1. Fins and Limbs and Fins into Limbs: The Historical Context, 1840–1940

Peter J. Bowler

2. Skeletal Changes in the Transition from Fins to Limbs

Michael I. Coates and Marcello Ruta

3. A Historical Perspective on the Study of Animal Locomotion with Fins and Limbs

Eliot G. Drucker and Adam P. Summers

4. Fins and Limbs in the Study of Evolutionary Novelties

Gunter P. Wagner and Hans C. E. Larsson

Part II. Development

5. The Development of Fins and Limbs

Mikiko Tanaka and Cheryl Tickle

6. Mechanisms of Chondrogenesis and Osteogenesis in Fins

P. Eckhard Witten and Ann Huysseune

7. Mechanisms of Chondrogenesis and Osteogenesis in Limbs

Scott D. Weatherbee and Lee A. Niswander

8. Apoptosis in Fin and Limb Development

Vanessa Zuzarte-Luís and Juan M. Hurlé

9. Joint Formation

Charles W. Archer, Gary P. Dowthwaite, and Philippa Francis-West

10. Postnatal Growth of Fins and Limbs through Endochondral Ossification

Cornelia E. Farnum

11. Paired Fin Repair and Regeneration

Marie-Andrée Akimenko and Amanda Smith

12. Tetrapod Limb Regeneration

David M. Gardiner and Susan V. Bryant

Part III. Transformation

13. Evolution of the Appendicular Skeleton of Amphibians

Robert L. Carroll and Robert B. Holmes

14. Limb Diversity and Digit Reduction in Reptilian Evolution

Michael D. Shapiro, Neil H. Shubin, and Jason P. Downs

15. Limbs in Mammalian Evolution

P. David Polly

16. Skeletal Adaptations for Flight

Stephen M. Gatesy and Kevin M. Middleton

17. Adaptations for Digging and Burrowing

Nathan J. Kley and Maureen Kearney

18. Aquatic Adaptations in the Limbs of Amniotes

J. G. M. Thewissen and Michael A. Taylor

19. Sesamoids and Ossicles in the Appendicular Skeleton

Matthew K. Vickaryous and Wendy M. Olson




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