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Brain Behav Evol. 1989;33(1):34-53.

Gross morphology and evolution of the mechanoreceptive lateral-line system in teleost fishes.

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  • Biology Department, Boston University, Mass.


The morphology and development of the mechanoreceptive lateral-line system in teleost fishes is reviewed, and the systematic distribution of defined types of lateral-line systems is summarized. The importance of an understanding of ontogeny is stressed and the roles of phylogenetic and developmental constraints in the evolution of the lateral-line system are discussed. Four types of head canal systems are identified on the basis of the relative development of the canals and the orientation of the neuromast receptors contained within them. The distribution of these patterns in the four major teleost clades is analyzed. It is suggested that a branched tubule system associated with the head canals is a primitive teleost character, while widened and reduced head canal patterns are convergent functional specializations in many taxa. The trunk canals are contained in a continuous series of lateral-line scales, and eight trunk canal patterns are described in teleosts. Given the correlation of the systematic distribution of the different trunk canal patterns, ecological habit and body shape, it appears that the trunk canals may function as a hydrodynamic monitor in swimming fishes.

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