New light shed on the early evolution of limb-bone growth plate and bone marrow

Jordi Estefa, Paul Tafforeau, Alice M. Clement, Jozef Klembara, Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki, Camille Berruyer, Sophie Sanchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


The production of blood cells (haematopoiesis) occurs in the limb bones of most tetrapods but is absent in the fin bones of ray-finned fish. When did long bones start producing blood cells? Recent hypotheses suggested that haematopoiesis migrated into long bones prior to the water-to-land transition and protected newly-produced blood cells from harsher environmental conditions. However, little fossil evidence to support these hypotheses has been provided so far. Observations of the humeral microarchitecture of stem-tetrapods, batrachians, and amniotes were performed using classical sectioning and three-dimensional synchrotron virtual histology. They show that Permian tetrapods seem to be among the first to exhibit a centralised marrow organisation, which allows haematopoiesis as in extant amniotes. Not only does our study demonstrate that long-bone haematopoiesis was probably not an exaptation to the water-to-land transition but it sheds light on the early evolution of limb-bone development and the sequence of bone-marrow functional acquisitions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere51581
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2021


  • limb-bone growth plate
  • bone marrow
  • evolution
  • tetrapods
  • humeral microarchitecture
  • stem-tetrapods
  • batrachians
  • amniotes
  • haematopoiesis


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