Clavicle - Evolutionary Variation

Evolutionary Variation

The clavicle first appears as part of the skeleton in primitive bony fish, where it is associated with the pectoral fin; they also have a bone called the cleithrum. In such fish, the paired clavicles run behind and below the gills on each side, and are joined by a solid symphysis on the fish's underside. They are, however, absent in cartilagenous fish and in the vast majority of living bony fish, including all of the teleosts.

The earliest tetrapods retained this arrangement, with the addition of a diamond-shaped interclavicle between the base of the clavicles, although this is not found in living amphibians. The cleithrum disappeared early in the evolution of reptiles, and is not found in any living amniotes, but the interclavicle is present in most modern reptiles, and also in monotremes. In modern forms, however, there are a number of variations from the primitive pattern. For example, crocodilians and salamanders lack clavicles altogether (although crocodilians do retain the interclavicle), while in turtles, they form part of the armoured plastron.

In birds, the clavicles and interclavicle have fused to form a single Y-shaped bone, the furcula or "wishbone".

The interclavicle is absent in marsupials and placental mammals. In many mammals, the clavicles are also reduced, or even absent, to allow the scapula greater freedom of motion, which may be useful in fast-running animals.

Though a number of fossil hominin (humans and chimpanzees) clavicles have been found, most of these are mere segments offering limited information on the form and function of the pectoral girdle. One exception is the clavice of AL 333x6/9 attributed to Australopithecus afarensis which has a well-preserved sternal end. One interpretation of this specimen, based on the orientation of its lateral end and the position of the deltoid attachment area, suggests that this clavicle is distinct from those found in extant apes (including humans), and thus that the shape of the human shoulder dates back to less than 3 to 4 million years ago. However, analyses of the clavicle in extant primates suggest that the low position of the scapula in humans is reflected mostly in the curvature of the medial portion of the clavicle rather than the lateral portion. This part of the bone is similar in A. afarensis and it is thus possible that this species had a high shoulder position similar to that in modern humans.

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