The central hypothesis of this paper is that basic properties of vertebrate limb development bias the generation of phenotypic variation in certain directions, and that these biases establish focal units, or regions, of evolutionary change within the primate hand and foot. These focal units include (1) a preaxial domain (digit I, hallux or pollex, metapodial and proximal phalanx), (2) a postaxial domain (metapodials and phalanges of digits II-V), and (3) a digit tip domain (terminal phalanges and nails/claws of rays I-V). The existence of these focal units therefore provides a mechanistic basis for mosaic evolution within the hand and foot, and can be applied to make specific predictions about which features of the limb skeleton are most likely to be altered in primate adaptive radiations over time. Examination of the early primate fossil record provides support for this model, and suggests that the existence of variational tendencies in limb development has played a major role in guiding the origin and evolution of primate skeletal form.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics