J. P. Hill and Katherine Watson's studies of the neural crest in marsupials.
In the early part of the 20th century, J. P. Hill and K. P. Watson embarked on a comprehensive study of the development of the brain in Australian marsupials. Their work included series from three major groups: dasyurids, peramelids, and diprotodonts, covering early primitive streak through brain closure and folding stages. While the major part of the work was on the development of the brain, in the course of this work they documented that cellular proliferations from the neural plate provided much of the mesenchyme of the branchial arches. These proliferations are now known to be the neural crest. However, except for a very brief note, published shortly after Hill's death, this work was never published. In this study, I present Hill and Watson's work on the development of the early neural plate and the neural crest in marsupials. I compare their findings with published work on the South American marsupial, Monodelphis domestica and demonstrate that patterns reported in Monodelphis are general for marsupials. Further, using their data I demonstrate that in dasyurids, which are ultra-altricial at birth, the neural crest migrates early and in massive quantities, even relative to other marsupials. Finally, I discuss the historical context and speculate on reasons for why this work was unpublished. I find little support for ideas that Hill blocked publication because of loyalty to the germ layer theory. Instead, it appears primarily to have been a very large project that was simply orphaned as Watson and Hill pursued other activities.
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