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Brain Behav Evol. 1992;40(2-3):141-56.

Chromatophore systems in teleosts and cephalopods: a levels oriented analysis of convergent systems.

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  • 1Division of Natural Sciences, New College of the University of South Florida, Sarasota 34243.


The neural control of chromatophore display in cephalopod mollusks and teleost fishes is reviewed in the context of convergence of functional-anatomical pathways and mechanisms at several levels of organization. The effector elements or chromatophores are different in origin and design in the two groups of animals. Major functional differences appear to be in the speed of response (greatest in cephalopods) and the magnitude of non-neural control mechanisms (greatest in teleosts). Despite the differences, the elements demonstrate striking overall functional similarity. Elements of different types form highly organized array patterns of similar general complexity. Innervation patterns in cephalopods and teleosts seem comparable, with control being unidirectional (albeit in opposite directions); some elements demonstrate polyaxonal innervation. Motor units in both groups are generally composed of many chromatophores. Packard's concept of 'cronological units' of similar age-classes of chromatophores being innervated by similar age-classes of motor neurons greatly simplifies the understanding of relationships between the static arrays and the physiological units that utilize them to produce chromatic displays. The lower motor control areas for both groups have been grossly identified. Chromatomotor neurons in cephalopods are mostly located in the chromatophore lobes of the subesophageal brain while comparable systems in teleosts are situated in sympathetic chain ganglia (preganglionics) and the rostral spinal cord (postganglionics). Chromatic components are the simplest visually detectable units of color display, e.g. vertical bands and fin spots. They combine to form more complex chromatic patterns, which, in turn, are integrated with components of skin texture, posture and movement to produce display behaviors. Complexity of such systems seems to be of the same order of magnitude in both cephalopods and teleosts. Areas of the CNS related to each of the categorical levels have not been clearly defined. Crude patterning may take place in the basal and, perhaps, peduncle lobes in cephalopods and in the lower and intermediate medulla in teleosts. In both groups, higher level control relates to areas involved in sensorimotor integration and mediation of agonistic, sexual, and, perhaps, other types of behavior: the peduncle and optic lobes in cephalopods and the hypothalamus, tegmentum, otic tectum, torus semicircularis, thalamus and telencephalon in fishes. The systems appear to parallel each other in being organized hierarchically, with similar levels of complexity. Some of the regions may be especially important for regulating color patterns in response to visual input. Overall, chromatomotor control systems in cephalopods and teleosts demonstrate many apparent convergent features. Possible factors responsible for the similarities are discussed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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