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Aspects of Craniogenesis and Evolutionary Biology in Polypteriform Fishes

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Starting with a brief review of the discussion centered around the phylogenetic position of Polypteriformes, an attempt to analyse ontogenetic and functional aspects of some major components of the cranial skeleton is given. This analysis is based on long term aquarium observations of larval and adult feeding and breathing behaviour, on simple experimental approaches, and on anatomical and histological preparations. Differences in skull construction between Polypteriformes and Actinopterygii, often interpreted as indicative of a distant relationship, are reconsidered in a scenario-like framework of functional specialization. Most of these differences are derived conditions of functional complexes related to enhanced biting strength of the outer dental arcades, suction feeding and breathing of atmospheric air. The composition of the cheek region of Polypterus resembles the sarcopterygian condition indeed, and a revision of the ancestral osteognathostome pattern seems necessary in this respect. Aside from the presence of a quadratojugal, especially the independent squamosal process and plate in early ontogeny is reminiscent of the separate sarcopterygian squamosal. However, none of the skeletal units investigated here, prevents a derivation of the polypteriform condition from an actinopterygian ancestral state.

Affiliations: 1: (Museum für Naturkunde der Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Institut für Systematische Zoologie, Invalidenstr. 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany


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