Development, medicine, and evolution of the neck and shoulder

mouse head and neck

Neck anatomy has long terrified me. Way back when I was a grad student, my lab studied the organization and development of the hindbrain, which was relatively tidy and segmental; my research was studying the organization and development of the spinal cord, which was also tidy and segmental. The cervical region, though, was complicated territory. It's a kind of transitional zone between two simple patterns, and all kinds of elaborate nuclei and new cell types and structural organizations flowered there. I drew a line at the fifth spinal segment and said I'm not even going to look further anteriorly…good thing, too, or I'd probably still be trying to finish my degree.

Fortunately, Matsuoka et al. were braver than I was and they have applied some new molecular techniques to sort out some of the details of how the neck and shoulder are assembled. This is a developmental study of how the muscles and bones of the shoulder girdle and neck are derived, and what they've identified is 1) a fairly simple rule for part of the organization, 2) an explanation for some human pathologies, and 3) some interesting observations about evolution. It is very cool to find a paper that ties together molecular genetics, development, paleontology, and medicine together so inseparably.

Continue reading Development, medicine, and evolution of the neck and shoulder (on Pharyngula)


Keep up the good work

I agree. I know posts like this don’t get many comments, but I appreciate them. Both my wife and daughter teach yoga and my daughter does all sorts of body work, so I sent them both the link to his article - they both work regularly with the anatomy of the neck and shoulder.

This post is of very high quality, but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised how few comments such informative essays attract. Creationism and ID are not about trying to figure out how nature works, and that means that combating creationism and ID is necessarily even further removed from real biology.

I’ve always been confused by the attraction of the long neck.

Long neck, short neck, stubbie or can, isn’t it all about the same when you pour the beer into a glass?

Now, in England there’s a great debate over beer in a mug or a straight glass, and I must say I prefer a straight glass. More refined, don’t you see. Plus you don’t have to be concerned about a handle which, after an extended session, could be a problem.

Hey, what did you expect from Delta Pi Gamma?

Somebody else noticed! Yeah, when I post about actual biology, I don’t get much of a response – politics and creationism trigger more of a reaction. It’s OK, though…the biology is what I’m in this business for.

From this direction I’d say that was because there isn’t that much to be said - and I assumed you didn’t just need a pat on the back every time! Biology is the nice stuff (and I’ve tended to wait to get round to checking Pharyngula before reading it). With the creato-politics, by the time I’ve got round to checking what’s new here someone has usually already said something stupid which needs correcting. As it happens, I very nearly commented on this one over at your site but didn’t bother in the end because my “Aha I was expecting …” post didn’t really seem to add anything of significance to anyone else.

It’s true, these real science articles don’t generate much commentary. I’ve enjoyed them a great deal. I’ve even had a science-related question about one, a while back. But they take a lot of digestion, and many of the potential questions are already anticipated and answered.

Ironically, they are probably the strongest rebuttal to creationism available on this site.

Oh, yeah, science! Now I remember.

There’s a nice article on the BBC News site under Science, of all places, about a recent study on butterfly speciation. To mine a quote:

This process, called “reinforcement”, prevents closely related species from interbreeding thus driving them further apart genetically and promoting speciation.

Although scientists have speculated about this mechanism for years, it has rarely been witnessed in nature.

“The phenomenon of reinforcement is one of the very few mechanisms that has natural selection playing a role in speciation,” said Harvard co-author Nikolai Kandul. “It might be very widespread but it is hard to find good evidence of it.”

Shock! Horror! Actual research. What will they think of doing next?

I’m also extremely interested in the sciencey posts (the post about dinosaur lungs had me positively rivetted), though I’m afraid I take a lot less away from them than the scientists knocking around. And you in particular Dr Myers have a knack of adding elegant explanations for us poor laypeople when you start entering technical issues.


PZ, yeah, if you’re not fixing to join Carl Zimmer in the pantheon of biology elucidators, there’s something terribly wrong.

Shoulder of cod will never seem the same.

I know posts like this don’t get many comments, but I appreciate them.

Yes, that is true, but they’re more interesting than quibbling.

How did this happen? Harris’s office told Database–a firm with strong Republican ties-to cast as wide a net as possible to get rid of these voters. Her minions instructed the company to include even people with “similar” names to those of the actual felons. They insisted Database check people with the same birth dates as known felons, or similar Social Security numbers; an 80 percent match of relevant information, the election office instructed, was sufficient for Database to add a voter to the ineligible list.

#41397 seems like it got here through a wormhole.

I found this article by browsing for paleontology in medicine. My father is under the care of a surgical team of three, one of whom is a paleontologist. I wondered how she fits into the picture of his facial reconstruction from radical cancer-ending surgery. Daddy lost most of his lower mouth, including lower mandible to cancer. Can you just point me to something that more carefully defines paleontology in medicine? Gee, thanks.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on July 23, 2005 11:00 AM.

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