Post-embryonic development of canal and superficial neuromasts and the generation of two cranial lateral line phenotypes

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The relatively simple structural organization of the cranial lateral line system of bony fishes provides a valuable context in which to explore the ways in which variation in post-embryonic development results in functionally distinct phenotypes, thus providing a link between development, evolution, and behavior. Vital fluorescent staining, histology, and scanning electron microscopy were used to describe the distribution, morphology, and ontogeny of the canal and superficial neuromasts on the head of two Lake Malawi cichlids with contrasting lateral line canal phenotypes (Tramitichromis sp. [narrow-simple, well-ossified canals with small pores] and Aulonocara stuartgranti [widened, more weakly ossified canals with large pores]). This work showed that: 1) the patterning (number, distribution) of canal neuromasts, and the process of canal morphogenesis typical of bony fishes was the same in the two species, 2) two sub-populations of neuromasts (presumptive canal neuromasts and superficial neuromasts) are already distinguishable in small larvae and demonstrate distinctive ontogenetic trajectories in both species, 3) canal neuromasts differ with respect to ontogenetic trends in size and proportions between canals and between species, 4) the size, shape, configuration, physiological orientation, and overall rate of proliferation varies among the nine series of superficial neuromasts, which are found in both species, and 5) in Aulonocara, in particular, a consistent number of canal neuromasts accompanied by variability in the formation of canal pores during canal morphogenesis demonstrates independence of early and late phases of lateral line development. This work provides a new perspective on the contributions of post-embryonic phases of lateral line development and to the generation of distinct phenotypes in the lateral line system of bony fishes. J. Morphol. 277:1273-1291, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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Journal of morphology