A Developmental Staging Series for the African House Snake, Boaedon (Lamprophis) fuliginosus


Student author: Eric K. Dichter

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Embryonic staging series are important tools in the study of morphological evolution as they establish a common standard for future studies. In this study, we describe the in ovo embryological development of the African house snake (Boaedon fuliginosus), a non-venomous, egg-laying species within the superfamily Elapoidea. We develop our staging series based on external morphology of the embryo including the head, eye, facial prominences, pharyngeal slits, heart, scales, and endolymphatic ducts. An analysis of embryonic growth in length and mass is presented, as well as preliminary data on craniofacial skeletal development. Our results indicate that B. fuliginosus embryos are well into organogenesis but lack well-defined facial prominences at the time of oviposition. Mandibular and maxillary processes extend rostrally within 8 days (stage 3), corresponding to the first appearance of Meckel's cartilages. Overall, the development of the craniofacial skeleton in B. fuliginosus appears similar to that of other snake species with intramembraneous bones (e.g., dentary and compound bones) ossifying before most of the endochondral bones, the first of which to ossify are the quadrate and the otic capsule. Our staging series is the first to describe the post-ovipositional development of a non-venomous elapoid based on external morphology. This species is an extremely tractable captive that can produce large clutches of eggs every 45 days throughout the year. As such, B. fuliginosus should be a good model for evolutionary developmental biologists focusing on the craniofacial skeleton, loss of limbs, generational teeth, and venom delivery systems.


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