Molecular anatomy of the alligator dorsal telencephalon. Academic Article uri icon


  • The evolutionary relationships of the mammalian neocortex and avian dorsal telencephalon (DT) nuclei have been debated for more than a century. Despite their central importance to this debate, nonavian reptiles remain underexplored with modern molecular techniques. Reptile studies harbor great potential for understanding the changes in DT organization that occurred in the early evolution of amniotes. They may also help clarify the specializations in the avian DT, which comprises a massive, cell-dense dorsal ventricular ridge (DVR) and a nuclear dorsal-most structure, the Wulst. Crocodilians are phylogenetically and anatomically attractive for DT comparative studies: they are the closest living relatives of birds and have a strikingly bird-like DVR, but they also possess a highly differentiated reptile cerebral cortex. We studied the DT of the American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, at late embryonic stages with a panel of molecular marker genes. Gene expression and cytoarchitectonic analyses identified clear homologs of all major avian DVR subdivisions including a mesopallium, an extensive nidopallium with primary sensory input territories, and an arcopallium. The alligator medial cortex is divided into three components that resemble the mammalian dentate gyrus, CA fields, and subiculum in gene expression and topography. The alligator dorsal cortex contains putative homologs of neocortical input, output, and intratelencephalic projection neurons and, most notably, these are organized into sublayers similar to mammalian neocortical layers. Our findings on the molecular anatomy of the crocodilian DT are summarized in an atlas of the alligator telencephalon.

publication date

  • July 1, 2018