Early development of the nervous system of the eutherian Tupaia belangeri
The longstanding debate on the taxonomic status of Tupaia belangeri (Tupaiidae, Scandentia, Mammalia) has persisted in times of molecular biology and genetics. But way beyond that Tupaia belangeri has turned out to be a valuable and widely accepted animal model for studies in neurobiology, stress research, and virology, among other topics. It is thus a privilege to have the opportunity to provide an overview on selected aspects of neural development and neuroanatomy in Tupaia belangeri on the occasion of this special issue dedicated to Hans-Jürg Kuhn. Firstly, emphasis will be given to the optic system. We report rather "unconventional" findings on the morphogenesis of photoreceptor cells, and on the presence of capillary-contacting neurons in the tree shrew retina. Thereafter, network formation among directionally selective retinal neurons and optic chiasm development are discussed. We then address the main and accessory olfactory systems, the terminal nerve, the pituitary gland, and the cerebellum of Tupaia belangeri. Finally, we demonstrate how innovative 3-D reconstruction techniques helped to decipher and interpret so-far-undescribed, strictly spatiotemporally regulated waves of apoptosis and proliferation which pass through the early developing forebrain and eyes, midbrain and hindbrain, and through the panplacodal primordium which gives rise to all ectodermal placodes. Based on examples, this paper additionally wants to show how findings gained from the reported projects have influenced current neuroembryological and, at least partly, medical research.