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Medullary bone in fossils : function, evolution and significance in growth curve reconstructions of extinct vertebrates

Edina Prondvai (UGent)
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Abstract
Medullary bone (MB) is a special endosteal tissue forming in the bones of female birds during egg laying to serve as a labile calcium reservoir for building the hard eggshell. Therefore, the presence of MB reported in multiple nonavian dinosaurs is currently considered as evidence that those specimens were sexually mature females in their reproductive period. This interpretation has led to further inferences on species-specific growth strategies and related life-history aspects of these extinct vertebrates. However, a few studies questioned the reproductive significance of fossil MB by either regarding the tissue pathological or attributing alternative functions to it. This study reviews the general inferences on extinct vertebrates and discusses the primary role, distribution, regulation and adaptive significance of avian MB to point out important but largely overlooked uncertainties and inconsistencies in this matter. Emerging discordancy is demonstrated when the presence of MB vs. trade-off between growth and reproduction is used for interpreting dinosaurian growth curves. Synthesis of these data suggests that fossil MB was related to high calcium turnover rates but not exclusively to egg laying. Furthermore, revised application of Allosaurus growth data by modelling individual-based growth curves implies a much higher intraspecific variability in growth strategies, including timing of sexual maturation, than usually acknowledged. New hypotheses raised here to resolve these incongruences also propose new directions of research on the origin and functional evolution of this curious bone tissue.
Keywords
birds, eggshell, fossils, growth curve, medullary bone, nonavian dinosaurs, reproductive maturity, MALE JAPANESE-QUAIL, OSTEOCLAST CELL-SURFACE, LIFE-HISTORY EVOLUTION, EGG-LAYING CYCLE, ALLIGATOR-MISSISSIPPIENSIS, AVIAN OSTEOPETROSIS, BODY-SIZE, REPRODUCTIVE-BIOLOGY, SEXUAL-MATURITY, CANCELLOUS BONE

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Prondvai, Edina. 2017. “Medullary Bone in Fossils : Function, Evolution and Significance in Growth Curve Reconstructions of Extinct Vertebrates.” Journal of Evolutionary Biology 30 (3): 440–460.
APA
Prondvai, Edina. (2017). Medullary bone in fossils : function, evolution and significance in growth curve reconstructions of extinct vertebrates. JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, 30(3), 440–460.
Vancouver
1.
Prondvai E. Medullary bone in fossils : function, evolution and significance in growth curve reconstructions of extinct vertebrates. JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY. 2017;30(3):440–60.
MLA
Prondvai, Edina. “Medullary Bone in Fossils : Function, Evolution and Significance in Growth Curve Reconstructions of Extinct Vertebrates.” JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY 30.3 (2017): 440–460. Print.
@article{8506967,
  abstract     = {Medullary bone (MB) is a special endosteal tissue forming in the bones of female birds during egg laying to serve as a labile calcium reservoir for building the hard eggshell. Therefore, the presence of MB reported in multiple nonavian dinosaurs is currently considered as evidence that those specimens were sexually mature females in their reproductive period. This interpretation has led to further inferences on species-specific growth strategies and related life-history aspects of these extinct vertebrates. However, a few studies questioned the reproductive significance of fossil MB by either regarding the tissue pathological or attributing alternative functions to it. This study reviews the general inferences on extinct vertebrates and discusses the primary role, distribution, regulation and adaptive significance of avian MB to point out important but largely overlooked uncertainties and inconsistencies in this matter. Emerging discordancy is demonstrated when the presence of MB vs. trade-off between growth and reproduction is used for interpreting dinosaurian growth curves. Synthesis of these data suggests that fossil MB was related to high calcium turnover rates but not exclusively to egg laying. Furthermore, revised application of Allosaurus growth data by modelling individual-based growth curves implies a much higher intraspecific variability in growth strategies, including timing of sexual maturation, than usually acknowledged. New hypotheses raised here to resolve these incongruences also propose new directions of research on the origin and functional evolution of this curious bone tissue.},
  author       = {Prondvai, Edina},
  issn         = {1010-061X},
  journal      = {JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {440--460},
  title        = {Medullary bone in fossils : function, evolution and significance in growth curve reconstructions of extinct vertebrates},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13019},
  volume       = {30},
  year         = {2017},
}

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