Interest in the origin and evolution of the turtle shell has resulted in a most unlikely clade becoming an important research group for investigating morphological diversity in developmental biology. Many turtles generate a two-component shell that nearly surrounds the body in a bony exoskeleton. The ectoderm covering the shell produces epidermal scutes that form a phylogenetically stable pattern. In some lineages, the bones of the shell and their ectodermal covering become reduced or lost, and this is generally associated with different ecological habits. The similarity and diversity of turtles allows research into how changes in development create evolutionary novelty, interacting modules, and adaptive physiology and anatomy.
Fields of Science
- 1184 Genetics, developmental biology, physiology
- 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
- 111 Mathematics