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Preview: Journal of Morphology

Journal of Morphology

Wiley Online Library : Journal of Morphology

Published: 2017-12-01T00:00:00-05:00


Ultrastructure of endocrine pancreatic granules during pancreatic differentiation in the grass snake, Natrix natrix L. (Lepidosauria, Serpentes)


We used transmission electron microscopy to study the pancreatic main endocrine cell types in the embryos of the grass snake Natrix natrix L. with focus on the morphology of their secretory granules. The embryonic endocrine part of the pancreas in the grass snake contains four main types of cells (A, B, D, and PP), which is similar to other vertebrates. The B granules contained a moderately electron-dense crystalline-like core that was polygonal in shape and an electron-dense outer zone. The A granules had a spherical electron-dense eccentrically located core and a moderately electron-dense outer zone. The D granules were filled with a moderately electron-dense non-homogeneous content. The PP granules had a spherical electron-dense core with an electron translucent outer zone. Within the main types of granules (A, B, D, PP), different morphological subtypes were recognized that indicated their maturity, which may be related to the different content of these granules during the process of maturation. The sequence of pancreatic endocrine cell differentiation in grass snake embryos differs from that in many vertebrates. In the grass snake embryos, the B and D cells differentiated earlier than A and PP cells. The different sequence of endocrine cell differentiation in snakes and other vertebrates has been related to phylogenetic position and nutrition during early developmental stages. Based on their biology, reptiles are unique among the vertebrate taxa. Studies on the differentiation of the grass snake pancreatic cells revealed similarities and differences compared to the same process that has been described in other vertebrates. Based on our studies, we revealed that the endocrine pancreas of the grass snake contains four main types of endocrine cells (A, B, D, PP), which is similar to other vertebrates because it is probably an evolutionarily conserved feature of this gland. Within the main types of granules (A, B, D, PP), different morphological subtypes that indicated their maturity, which may be related to the different content of these granules during the process of maturation, could be distinguished.

Size, shape, and sex-dependent variation in force production by crayfish chelae


The ability to generate large closing forces is important for many animals. Several studies have demonstrated that bite or pinching force capacity is usually related to the linear dimensions of the closing apparatus. However, relatively few studies have applied geometric morphometrics to examine the effects of size-independent shape on force production, particularly in studies of crustacean pinching force. In this study, we utilized traditional and geometric morphometric techniques to compare the pinching force of Procambarus clarkii crayfish to their chela morphology. We found that males possessed larger chelae and pinched harder than females, but that their chela shape and size were weak predictors of strength. Female pinching force was significantly affected by both chela size and shape, with shape variation along the short axis of the claw contributing most to pinching force. We discuss our results in the context of reliable signaling of strength by males and females, and the different selective forces acting on chela shape in the two sexes. Geometric and traditional morphometrics were applied to the study of pinching force by chelae of the crayfish Procambarus clarkii. Chela size and shape were better predictors of force production in females than in males. Sex differences in the size- and shape-force relationships suggest different selection pressures on males and females of this species.

Macroscopic and microscopic analyses in flexor tendons of the tarsometatarso-phalangeal joint of ostrich (Struthio camelus) foot with energy storage and shock absorption


Flexor tendons function as energy storage and shock absorption structures in the tarsometatarso-phalangeal joint (TMTPJ) of ostrich feet during high-speed and heavy-load locomotion. In this study, mechanisms underlying the energy storage and shock absorption of three flexor tendons of the third toe were studied using histology and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Macroscopic and microscopic structures of the flexor tendons in different positions of TMTPJ were analyzed. Histological slices showed collagen fiber bundles of all flexor tendons in the middle TMTPJ were arranged in a linear-type, but in the proximal and distal TMTPJ, a wavy-type arrangement was found in the tendon of the M. flexor digitorum longus and tendon of the M. flexor perforans et perforatus digiti III, while no regular-type was found in the tendon of the M. flexor perforatus digiti III. SEM showed that the collagen fiber bundles of flexor tendons were arranged in a hierarchically staggered way (horizontally linear-type and vertically linear-type). Linear-type and wavy-type both existed in the proximal TMTPJ for the collagen fiber bundles of the tendon of the M. flexor perforatus digiti III, but only the linear-type was found in the distal TMTPJ. A number of fibrils were distributed among the collagen fiber bundles, which were likely effective in connection, force transmission and other functions. The morphology and arrangement of collagen fiber bundles were closely related to the tendon functions. We present interpretations of the biological functions in different positions and types of the tendons in the TMTPJ of the ostrich feet. Struthio camelus, light micrographs of the tendon of the M. flexor digitorum longus. (a, c, e) Longitudinal and (b, d, f) transverse sections of the tendon in (a, b) proximal, (c, d) middle and (e, f) distal TMTPJ.

Built to bite? Differences in cranial morphology and bite performance between narrow- and broad-headed European glass eels


The presence of two phenotypes in a single species is a widespread phenomenon, also observed in European eel (Anguilla anguilla). This dimorphism has been related to dietary differences in the subadult elver and yellow eel stages, with broad-heads generally feeding on harder and/or larger-bodied prey items than narrow-heads. Nevertheless, both broad- and narrow-headed phenotypes can already be found among glass eels, the stage preceding the elver eel stage. As these glass eels are considered nonfeeding, we investigate here to what degree the observed variation in head width is reflected in variation in the musculoskeletal feeding system, as well as whether this reflects the same variation observed in the older, dimorphic yellow eels. Additionally, we investigate whether musculoskeletal differences between broad- and narrow-headed glass eels have implications on their feeding performance and could thus impact prey preference when eels start feeding. Therefore, we compared the cranial musculoskeletal system of five broad- and narrow-headed glass eels using 3D-reconstructions and simulated the glass eel's bite force using the data of the muscle reconstructions. We found that the variation in the musculoskeletal system of glass eels indeed reflects that of the yellow eels. Broader heads were related to larger jaw muscles, responsible for mouth closure. Accordingly, broad-heads could generate higher bite forces than narrow-headed glass eels. In addition, broader heads were associated with higher coronoid processes and shorter hyomandibulae, beneficial for dealing with higher mechanical loadings and consequently, harder prey. We, thus, show that head width variation in glass eels is related to musculoskeletal differences which, in turn, can affect feeding performance. As such, differences in prey preference can already take place the moment the eels start feeding, potentially leading to the dimorphism observed in the elver and yellow eel stage. Having a wide or narrow head in nonfeeding European glass eels can be linked to musculoskeletal differences affecting feeding performance. This may give broad-headed eels the advantage to start consuming harder prey items than narrow-heads can.

The development of lingual glands in the domestic duck (Anas platyrhynchos f. domestica): 3D-reconstruction, LM, and SEM study


The major salivary glands of birds develop by branching or elongation of the epithelial cords. The development of the minor salivary glands in form of the lingual glands has never been described. Among birds, only Anatidae have three types of the lingual glands: rostral, caudo-lateral, and caudo-medial lingual glands. The study aims to characterize the manner and rate of the lingual glands development in the domestic duck and their topographical arrangement relative to the hyoid apparatus. The study reveals that all three types of the lingual glands develop by branching. We describe five stages of the lingual glands development in the domestic ducks: prebud, initial bud, pseudoglandular, canalicular, and terminal bud stage. The pattern of the lingual glands development in birds is similar to that described for mammals, with the exception, that the terminal buds are formed at the same time as the lumen of the glands. Generally, the rostral lingual gland starts to branch earlier than the caudal lingual glands. The 3D-reconstruction shows the location and direction of lingual gland development relative to the entoglossal cartilage and basibranchial bone. Light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy allow to characterize the histogenesis of the embryonic epithelium into glandular epithelium. At a time of hatching only secretory units of caudal lingual glands resemble the secretory units of the adult domestic duck. The rostral and caudo-lateral lingual glands are arranged on the sides of the entoglossal cartilage and basibranchial bone and caudo-madial lingual glands are located over the basibranchial bone. We suggest that such an arrangement of the lingual glands in the domestic duck is important during food intake and responsible for reduction of friction and formation of food bites. 3D-reconstructions and microscopic observations were used to describe the development of the lingual glands in the domestic duck. The three types of the lingual glands develop by branching of the epithelial cords. Generally, the rostral lingual glands branch earlier than the caudal lingual glands. Light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy document the differentiation of the simple epithelial cords of lingual glands into complex alveolar-tubular glands.

Cranial shape variation in jacarean caimanines (Crocodylia, Alligatoroidea) and its implications in the taxonomic status of extinct species: The case of Melanosuchus fisheri


Melanosuchus niger (Crocodylia, Alligatoroidea) is one of the six living caimanine species widely distributed throughout the Amazon River basin today. Although there is only one extant species of Melanosuchus, fossil material assigned to this genus, represented by M. fisheri, has been reported from the late Miocene in South America. However, the validity of this taxon has been questioned and a recent investigation indicates that the referred specimen of M. fisheri (MCZ 4336) actually belongs to Globidentosuchus brachyrostris, while those diagnostic characters present in the holotype (MCNC 243) fall into the spectrum of intraspecific variation of M. niger. Here, we compare the skull shape of the holotype of M. fisheri with the ontogenetic series of the four jacarean species (M. niger, Caiman yacare, Caiman crocodilus, and Caiman latirostris) using 2D-geometric morphometric analyses in two different views. The analyses indicate that MCNC 243 falls into the morphospace of M. niger and C. latirostris. Despite strong shape similarities between juveniles of C. latirostris and MCNC 243, further anatomical comparisons reveal notable differences between them. In contrast, no concrete anatomical differences can be found between MCNC 243 and M. niger, although shape analyses indicate that MCNC 243 is relatively robust for its size. Thus, this study is able to confirm that the genus Melanosuchus was present in the late Miocene, but it still remains unclear if MCNC 243 should be treated as a junior synonym or probably a sister species of M. niger. Its Miocene age favors the second option, but as the shape analyses were also not able to extract any diagnostic characters, it should be retained as Melanosuchus cf. niger. A comparison of the skull shape of the fossil caiman MCNC 243 with four jacarean caimans indicates that MCNC 243 falls into the morphospace of Melanosuchus niger and Caiman latirostris, while orbit shape and size supports an affiliation with the genus Melanosuchus.

Anatomy and histology of the prostate and glands of Cowper in three species of neotropical bats


The reproductive accessory glands (RAG) are essential components in reproduction because their secretion products ensure survival, viability, and sperm motility. The objective of this study was to characterize and compare the morphological and histological structure of the RAG in three species of bats of the genus Sturnira (S. erythromos, S. lilium, and S. oporaphilum). The RAG complex comprise a compact gland (prostate), which surrounds the urethra, and a pair of Glands of Cowper at the base of penis. Anatomical and histologically, the prostate are differentiated in two regions, ventral and dorsal. The dorsal region has tubuloalveolar glands with secretions fine granular or accumulations of a gel-like substance with bubbles and the ventral region, has alveolar glands with secretory cells form a single-layer of small cells. The seminal vesicles are absent. The prostatic morphology of the three species is similar to that of other studied Stenodermatinae and Desmodontinae, but differs from other subfamilies of Phyllostomidae (Carollinae, Glossophaginae, and Phyllostominae) as that of Molossidae and Vespertilionidae. The RAG complex has no annual variation in relation to functionality or size, but it is variable depending on age (subadults and adults). This agrees with the annual reproductive pattern described for these species in these latitudes, where adult males are reproductively active throughout the year. In Sturnira accessory sexual glands complex is conformed exclusively by prostate and Cowper's gland, the seminal vesicles are absent. The absence of Seminal vesicle and two prostate region may imply that dorsal region is homologue to seminal vesicle.

The structure of the cutaneous pedal glands in the banded snail Cepaea hortensis (Müller, 1774)


Although gastropods have been crawling through the ocean and on the land for 60 million years, we still know very little about the sticky mucus produced in their foot. Most research has been focused on marine species in particular and, to a lesser extent, on the well-known terrestrial species Arion vulgaris and Cornu aspersum. Within this study, we aim to characterize the foot anatomy of a smaller representative of the family Helicidae, the banded snail Cepaea hortensis. We are particularly interested in the microanatomy of the foot glands, their position, and the histochemical nature of their secretory content. Characterization of the dorsal foot region of Cepaea hortensis reveals four glands, differing in their size and in the granules produced. Histochemically, three of them react positively for sugars (PAS staining and lectin affinity tests for mannose, glucose and N-acetyl-d-glucosamine) and acidic proteins (positive Alcian blue and Toluidine blue staining), indicating the presence of acidic glycosaminoglycans. The fourth gland type does not react to any of these dyes. The ventral pedal region includes two different gland types, which are positive for the presence of acidic glycoproteins, with a lectin affinity for mannose only. A comparison with Helix pomatia indicates differences regarding the number of glands and their contents. In Helix, only three gland types are described in the dorsal region of the foot, which show a similar granular appearance but nevertheless differ in their chemical composition. Congruently, there are two gland types in the ventral region in both species, whereas in Helix an additional sugar moiety is found. This raises the question whether these differences between the pedal glandular systems of both helicid species are the result of protection or size-related adaptations, as they occur in the same habitat. The microanatomy of the Cepaea hortensis pedal gland system is described for the first time. Histochemically, the glands mostly consist of acidic glycosaminoglycans containing sugars such as mannose, glucose, and N-acetyl-d-glucosamine. The data given for Cepaea hortensis differ from those of related helicid species as Helix pomatia in regards to gland number and composition.

Neuroanatomy of Hyalinella punctata: Common patterns and new characters in phylactolaemate bryozoans


Studies on the bryozoan adult nervous system employing immunocytochemical techniques and confocal laser scanning microscopy are scarce. To gain a better view into the structure and evolution of the nervous system of the Phylactolaemata, the earliest extant branch and sister taxon to the remaining Bryozoa, this work aims to characterize the nervous system of Hyalinella punctata with immunocytochemical techniques and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The cerebral ganglion is located between the anus and the pharynx and contains a lumen. Two ganglionic horns and a circum-oral nerve ring emanate from the cerebral ganglion. The pharynx is innervated by a diffuse neural plexus with two prominent neurite bundles. The caecum is innervated by longitudinal neurite bundles and a peripheral plexus. The intestine is characterized by longitudinal and circular neurite bundles, mostly near the anus. Novel putative sensory cells were found in the foregut and intestine. The tentacle sheath is innervated by a diffuse neural plexus, which emanates from several neurite bundles from the cerebral ganglion, but also parts of the pharyngeal plexus. There are six tentacle neurite bundles of intertentacular origin. The retractor muscles are innervated by two thin neurite bundles. Several characters are described herein for the first time in Phylactolaemata: Longitudinal neurite bundles and a peripheral plexus of the caecum, putative sensory structures of the gut, retractor muscle innervation, specific duplicature band neurite bundles. The tentacle innervation differs from previous descriptions of phylactolaemates regarding the origin of the three abfrontal neurite bundles. In general, most organ systems are innervated by a diffuse plexus in phylactolaemates as opposed to gymnolaemates. In contrast to the Gymnolaemata, representatives of Phylactolaemata show a higher number of tentacle nerves. Although the plesiomorphic condition for zooidal features among bryozoans remains unclear, having a diffuse nerve plexus may represent an ancestral feature for freshwater bryozoans. Schematic illustration of the tentacle innervation pattern of the phylactolaemate bryozoan, Hyalinella punctata.

Ultrastructural immunolocalization of hyaluronate in regenerating tail of lizards and amphibians supports an immune-suppressive role to favor regeneration


Hyaluronate is produced in high amount during the initial stages of regeneration of the tail and limbs of lizards, newts, and frog tadpoles. The fine distribution of hyaluronate in the regenerating tail blastemas has been assessed by ultrastructural immunolocalization of the Hyaluronate Binding Protein (HABP), a protein that indirectly reveals the presence of hyaluronate in tissues. The present electron microscopic study shows that HABP is detected in the cytoplasm but this proteins is mainly localized on the surfaces of cells in the wound epidermis and mesenchymal cells of the blastema. HABP appears, therefore, accumulated along the cell surface, indicating that hyaluronate coats these embryonic-like cells and their antigens. The high level of hyaluronate in the blastema, aside favoring tissue hydration, cell movements, and remodeling for blastema formation and growth, likely elicits a protection from the possible immune-reaction of lymphocytes and macrophages to embryonic-fetal-like antigens present on the surface of blastema and epidermal cells. Their survival, therefore, allows the continuous multiplication of these cells in regions rich in hyaluronate, promoting the regeneration of a new tail or limbs. The study suggests that organ regeneration in vertebrates is only possible in the presence of high hyaluronate content and hydration. These two conditions facilitate cell movement, immune-protection, and activate the Wnt signaling pathway, like during development. -A, Hyaluronate ultrastructural localization in regenerating lizard blastema -B, Hyaluronate ultrastructural localization in regenerating anuran blastema -C, Hyaluronate ultrastructural localization in regenerating urodelan blastema

Size and number of the hypoglossal nerve foramina in the avian skull and their potential neuroanatomical significance


The cranial openings of nervus hypoglossus, the 12th cranial nerve, are for the first time studied across a broad range of higher avian taxa. This nerve plays an important role in the innervation of the syrinx and exits the skull through a variable number of foramina. Most previous authors described 2–3 foramina nervi hypoglossi (FNH) for neornithine birds, but the number, size, and arrangement of FNH is actually more variable than what is apparent from the literature. In the case of three foramina, there is usually a pair of caudal foramina and a rostral one, but even in closely related taxa, a great variability of the FNH pattern may exist. Many taxa of Neognathae exhibit a quadruple of symmetrically arranged FNH, in others four foramina are strung together in a line. A few taxa show more than four FNH, although in these cases the additional foramina are very small. Of particular interest is the occurrence of a very large caudal FNH in Trochilidae and many species of Passeriformes. This large foramen is suggestive of a correlation with the highly developed vocal capabilities of these birds and may transmit fibers from the tracheosyringeal portion of nucleus nervi hypoglossi, in which case it would be an osteological correlate of vocal capabilities. However, targeted neuroanatomical studies are required to determine how individual hypoglossal foramina relate to hypoglossal roots and their branches, and which of them receive fibers supplying axial, lingual, and syringeal muscles. For the first time, the cranial openings of nervus hypoglossus, the 12th cranial nerve, are studied across a broad range of higher avian taxa. It is shown that number, size, and arrangement of the foramina nervi hypoglossi are more variable than what is apparent from the literature. Trochilidae and many species of Passeriformes have a particularly large caudal foramen n. hypoglossi, which may be correlated with the advanced vocal capabilities of these birds.

Oogenesis in the viviparous phoronid, Phoronis embryolabi


The study of gametogenesis is useful for phylogenetic analysis and can also provide insight into the physiology and biology of species. This report describes oogenesis in the Phoronis embryolabi, a newly described species, which has an unusual type of development, that is, a viviparity of larvae. Phoronid oogonia are described here for the first time. Yolk formation is autoheterosynthetic. Heterosynthesis occurs in the peripheral cytoplasm via fusion of endocytosic vesicles. Simultaneously, the yolk is formed autosynthetically by rough endoplasmic reticulum in the central cytoplasm. Each developing oocyte is surrounded by the follicle of vasoperitoneal cells, whose cytoplasm is filled with glycogen particles and various inclusions. Cytoplasmic bridges connect developing oocytes and vasoperitoneal cells. These bridges and the presence of the numerous glycogen particles in the vasoperitoneal cells suggest that nutrients are transported from the follicle to oocytes. Phoronis embryolabi is just the second phoronid species in which the ultrastructure of oogenesis has been studied, and I discuss the data obtained comparing them with those in Phoronopsis harmeri. Finally, I discuss the distribution of reproductive patterns across both, molecular and morphological phylogenetic trees in Phoronida proving that parental care has evolved independently several times in this phylum. Oogenesis of viviparous phoronid Phoronis embryolabi is autoheterosynthetic and involves follicles that appear to provide nutrients to the developing oocytes. Parental care has evolved independently several times in Phoronida.

The anterior process of the malleus in extant Lagomorpha (Mammalia)


The anterior anchoring of the malleus of 30 extant species of Lagomorpha (rabbits, hares, pikas) has been studied on the basis of histological serial sections and µCT-scans. It is shown that former studies of Oryctolagus, Lepus, and Ochotona are incomplete, because the rostral part of the processus anterior of the malleus is always lacking due to damage of this extremely delicate structure. Our study shows that in perinatal stages of Leporidae the praearticulare develops a prominent processus internus that fits into a groove at the ventral side of the tegmen tympani; this “tongue and groove”-arrangement may act as a hinge. In adult stages, the rostral end of the praearticulare fuses synostotically with the medial process of the ectotympanic. Torsional strain produced by rotation around the axis of the middle ear ossicles at sound transmission must, therefore, be experienced by the extremely thin but highly elastic bony pedicle of the processus internus praearticularis. The free ending processus anterior of a late fetal Ochotona shows a short processus internus praearticularis, which does not articulate with the tegmen tympani. During postnatal development the middle ear of Ochotona becomes considerably remodelled: not only does excessive pneumatization of the tegmen tympani and tympanic cavity wall occur, but the short processus anterior is fused synostotically to a bone trabecula of the tegmen tympani meshwork. The thin and elastic bone bridges are not equivalent in Leporidae and Ochotonidae, that is, they must have evolved convergently. Fleischer's classification with Oryctolagus possessing a “freely mobile type” of middle ear ossicles cannot be supported by our observations. The same holds true for Ochotona, which does not represent a “freely mobile type” either. Thus, we suggest for the lagomorph middle ear ossicles a new category: the “bone elasticity type.” For the first time the anterior anchoring of the malleus in Lagomorpha (hares, rabbits, pikas) has been described. The ontogeny of the processus internus praearticularis reveals two patterns that demand revision of established morphofunctional interpretations of the middle ear ossicle chain.

Geometric morphometric analysis as a proxy to evaluate age-related change in molar shape variation of low-crowned Notoungulata (Mammalia)


Shape and age variation in dentition of Paleogene extinct native South American ungulates (Notoungulata) has been traditionally described using qualitative and quantitative approaches, and has played a controversial role in the systematics of several groups. Such is the case of the Notopithecidae, a group of notoungulates with low-crowned teeth, known from the middle Eocene of Patagonia (Argentina). In this group, as well as in other contemporary families, extreme morphological changes associated to increasing dental wear were originally assumed to represent taxonomic differences; thus, dozens of species were erected, clearly reflecting the difficulty of defining discrete characters. In this contribution, a total of 89 upper molars and 91 lower molars were analyzed distributed in two factors, wear and species; three species of notopithecids were considered as study case, Notopithecus adapinus, Antepithecus brachystephanus, and Transpithecus obtentus, based on the large and well-identified sample of upper and lower molars for each species. We have coupled geometric morphometric analyses with traditional comparative methods to get a better understanding and interpretation of both the changes in tooth shape contour and the link between shape and ontogeny. In addition, we evaluate the utility of this approach to identify which changes are strictly wear-related and also test the qualitative characteristics used for diagnosing and differentiating notopithecid species. Our study yielded consistent results when applying independent geometric morphometric analyses on complex structures such as brachydont molar teeth. The landmark data is highly congruent with alternative sources of evidence, such as morphological studies using discrete characters. In notopithecid species, wear is the main factor affecting molar shape, followed by species (in lower molars) and allometry; in addition, lower teeth morphology is more definitive in separating species than upper molars, a fact that entails a key point for systematic studies of Paleogene brachydont notoungulates. Molar crown shape in Eocene brachydont notoungulates is affected mainly by wear and allometric size; but, interspecific shape differences are retained more in lower than upper molars, which are still distinguishable after controlling for wear and size.

Development of the muscles associated with the mandibular and hyoid arches in the Siberian sturgeon, Acipenser baerii (Acipenseriformes: Acipenseridae)


The skeleton of the jaws and neurocranium of sturgeons (Acipenseridae) are connected only through the hyoid arch. This arrangement allows considerable protrusion and retraction of the jaws and is highly specialized among ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii). To better understand the unique morphology and the evolution of the jaw apparatus in Acipenseridae, we investigated the development of the muscles of the mandibular and hyoid arches of the Siberian sturgeon, Acipenser baerii. We used a combination of antibody staining and formalin-induced fluorescence of tissues imaged with confocal microscopy and subsequent three-dimensional reconstruction. These data were analyzed to address the identity of previously controversial and newly discovered muscle portions. Our results indicate that the anlagen of the muscles in A. baerii develop similarly to those of other actinopterygians, although they differ by not differentiating into distinct muscles. This is exemplified by the subpartitioning of the m. adductor mandibulae as well as the massive m. protractor hyomandibulae, for which we found a previously undescribed portion in each. The importance of paedomorphosis for the evolution of Acipenseriformes has been discussed before and our results indicate that the muscles of the mandibular and the hyoid may be another example for heterochronic evolution. The analysis of the development of the mandibular- and hyoid-arch muscles of Acipenser baerii reveals a pattern of formation that is principally similar to other actinopterygians. For acipenseriforms previously undescribed muscle subportions were found present in the m. adductor mandibulae, the m. protractor hyomandibulae and the ventral constrictor muscles.

Morphological analysis of the male reproductive accessory glands of the bat Artibeus lituratus (Phyllostomidae: Chiroptera)


Bats are distributed worldwide from tropical to temperate regions. Despite their wide geographical radiation and advances in studies using evolutionary approaches, aspects related to the reproduction of these animals remain poorly explored, especially those related to the male reproductive accessory glands (RAGs). Thus, the aim of this study was to analyze the morphophysiology of the male RAGs in the bat Artibeus lituratus. The RAGs in A. lituratus are composed of a compact intra-abdominal glandular complex, consisting of the prostate with two prostatic regions (ventral and dorsal), plus Littre glands and a pair of extra-abdominal bulbourethral glands. The ventral region of the prostate has an epithelium with variable morphology, due to its holocrine type of secretion. In contrast, the dorsal region has a typical cubic-to-columnar pseudostratified epithelium. Both regions contain two cell types, basal and secretory cells. Similar to the epithelial morphology, the secretion also varies, with the ventral region containing numerous PAS-positive globular vesicles, whereas the dorsal region has a more fluid, hyaline and PAS-negative secretion. Littre glands are dispersed in the connective tissue of the urethra, while the bulbourethral glands are located in the penile root, both glands with cubic-to-columnar pseudostratified epithelium and globular PAS-positive secretion. The results demonstrate that the RAGs of A. lituratus are composed of two prostatic regions, ventral and dorsal, and urethral and bulbourethral glands, with no seminal vesicles. Each prostatic region has unique and distinctive characteristics, with the ventral region presenting an exclusive holocrine nature and the dorsal region having similarities to the ventral prostate of rodents. The male reproductive accessory glands of Artibeus lituratus are composed of the prostate, Littre glands, and a pair of bulbourethral glands. The ventral prostate of bats has an exclusive holocrine nature never described for a reproductive gland. The seminal vesicle is absent in Artibeus lituratus.

The rhinoceros among Serpents: Comparative anatomy and experimental biophysics of Calabar burrowing python (Calabaria reinhardtii) skin


The Calabar burrowing python (Calabaria reinhardtii) has a unique combination of marked thickness of the integumentary layers, a highly organized lamellate arrangement of the dermal collagen bundles, and a reduction in the size of the interscale hinge region of the integument. Biomechanical testing demonstrates that the skin of C. reinhardtii is more resistant to penetration than the skin of other snakes. The laminar arrangement of the collagen bundles provides for penetrative resistance, even while maintaining the flexibility characteristic of snake skin. Considering the life history of this species, it is hypothesized that the specialized integument of C. reinhardtii is a passive defensive mechanism against penetrative bites from maternal rodents and predators. The dermis of the Calabar python (Calabaria reinhardtii) is thicker than that of other snakes, and has a lamellate organization. The skin of Calabaria has greater penetration resistance than other snakes, forming a defense against rodent bites.

Morphological changes of the optic lobe from late embryonic to adult stages in oval squids Sepioteuthis lessoniana


The optic lobe is the largest brain area within the central nervous system of cephalopods and it plays important roles in the processing of visual information, the regulation of body patterning, and locomotive behavior. The oval squid Sepioteuthis lessoniana has relatively large optic lobes that are responsible for visual communication via dynamic body patterning. It has been observed that the visual behaviors of oval squids change as the animals mature, yet little is known about how the structure of the optic lobes changes during development. The aim of the present study was to characterize the ontogenetic changes in neural organization of the optic lobes of S. lessoniana from late embryonic stage to adulthood. Magnetic resonance imaging and micro-CT scans were acquired to reconstruct the 3D-structure of the optic lobes and examine the external morphology at different developmental stages. In addition, optic lobe slices with nuclear staining were used to reveal changes in the internal morphology throughout development. As oval squids mature, the proportion of the brain making up the optic lobes increases continuously, and the optic lobes appear to have a prominent dent on the ventrolateral side. Inside the optic lobe, the cortex and the medulla expand steadily from the late embryonic stage to adulthood, but the cell islands in the tangential zone of the optic lobe decrease continuously in parallel. Interestingly, the size of the nuclei of cells within the medulla of the optic lobe increases throughout development. These findings suggest that the optic lobe undergoes continuous external morphological change and internal neural reorganization throughout the oval squid's development. These morphological changes in the optic lobe are likely to be responsible for changes in the visuomotor behavior of oval squids from hatching to adulthood. The most evident morphological change takes place in the tangential zone during the expansion of the optic lobe along the development of Sepioteuthis lessoniana, suggesting that the brain area partially responsible for visuomotor control of body patterning undergoes significant neural reorganization at later developmental stages.

Ontogenetic variation in the sensory structures on the pedipalps of cosmetid harvestmen (Arachnida, Opiliones, Laniatores)


In arachnids, pedipalps are highly variable appendages that may be used in feeding, courtship, defense, and agonistic encounters. In cosmetid harvestmen, adults have pedipalps that feature flattened femora, spoon-shaped tibiae, and robust tarsal claws. In contrast, the pedipalps of nymphs are elongate with cylindrical podomeres and are adorned with delicate pretarsi. In this study, we used scanning electron microscopy to examine the distribution of cuticular structures (e.g., sensilla chaetica, pores) on the elements of the pedipalps of adults and nymphs of three species of cosmetid harvestmen. Our results indicate that there is considerable ontogenetic variation in the morphology of the trochanter, femur, patella, tibia, and tarsus. The pretarsus of the nymph has a ventral patch of setae that is absent from the adult tarsal claw. We observed this structure on all three cosmetid species as well as on the pedipalps of an additional seven morphospecies of nymphs collected in Belize and Costa Rica. This structure may represent a previously unrecognized autapomorphy for Cosmetidae. Examinations of the pedipalps of antepenultimate nymphs of additional gonyleptoidean harvestmen representing the families Ampycidae, Cranaidae, Manaosbiidae, and Stygnidae revealed the occurrence of unusual, plumose tarsal setae, but no setal patches on the tarsal claw. There is ontogenetic variation in the morphology of the segments that comprise the pedipalp of cosmetid harvestmen. A ventral patch of setae of the pretarsus of the nymph may represent a previously unrecognized autapomorphy for the Cosmetidae.

Gills of the medaka (Oryzias latipes): A scanning electron microscopy study


The general morphology and surface ultrastructure of the gills of adult and larvae medaka (Oryzias latipes) were studied in freshwater and seawater using scanning electron microscopy. The gills of all examined fish were structurally similar to those of other teleosts and consisted of four pairs of arches supporting (i) filaments bearing lamellae and (ii) rakers containing taste buds. Three cell types, specifically pavement cells, mitochondria-rich cells (MRCs), and mucous cells, constituted the surface layer of the gill epithelium. Several distinctive characteristics of medaka gills were noted, including the presence of regularly distributed outgrowth on the lamellae, enlarged filament tips, the absence of microridges in most pavement cells in the filament and lamellae and the presence of MRCs in the arch at the filament base. A rapid mode of development was recorded in the gills of larval fish. At hatching, the larvae already had four arches with rudimentary filaments, rakers, and taste buds. The rudimentary lamellae appeared within 2 days after hatching. These results suggest the early involvement of larval gills in respiratory and osmoregulation activities. The responses of the macrostructures and microstructures of gills to seawater acclimation were similar in larvae and adult fish and included modification of the apical surface of MRCs, confirming the importance of these cells in osmoregulation. The potential roles of these peculiarities of the macrostructures and microstructures of medaka gills in the major functions of this organ, such as respiration and osmoregulation, are discussed. In adult medaka, four distinctive characteristics of gill surface were noted and discussed. At hatch, different parts of gill were observed suggesting a rapid functionality of the gills after hatching.

Variation in crocodilian dorsal scute organization and geometry with a discussion of possible functional implications


Dermal ossifications, including osteoderms, are present in many vertebrates and are frequently interpreted as a defense against predators. Nevertheless, osteoderms remain ubiquitous in adult crocodilians while being absent in hatchlings, even though adults rarely experience predation. In other biological systems, increased variation, particularly fluctuating asymmetry, have proven useful for identifying biological structures likely to have evolved under relaxed selection, which in turn may inform their function. Therefore, using the keratinous scutes as proxies for the underlying osteoderm morphology, I investigated the average intraspecific variability of geometry and fluctuating asymmetry in dorsal scutes in five species of crocodilians. I first tested for differences in variability of scute length and width, then for differences in bilateral fluctuating asymmetry of scute number, before finally investigating scute distribution patterns for each species compared to hypothetical rectangular and hexagonal scute arrangements. The American crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, shows significantly more asymmetry than other species, which is consistent with relaxed selection on osteoderms in this species. A suspected decrease in intraspecific aggression within Crocodylus acutus, in conjunction with the inferred relaxed selection, suggests that, in general, crocodilian osteoderms function primarily as defensive armor in aggressive encounters with conspecifics. The smooth-fronted caiman, Paleosuchus trigonatus, exhibits increased variation in scute dimensions linked to the mediolateral offset of osteoderms in adjacent rows, possibly resulting in a more rigid carapace. Unfortunately, comparative data on crocodilian behavior, physiology, and development is extremely limited and restricts the ability to explore other potential explanations for the patterns observed, highlighting the need for more research on rare and cryptic crocodylians. Most crocodilians have a rectangular arrangement of scutes with low variability. Greater variability is attributed to relaxed selection in Crocodylus acutus and to a shift toward a more hexagonal scute distribution in Paleosuchus trigonatus.

Sequence and timing of early cranial skeletal development in Xenopus laevis


Xenopus laevis is widely used as a model organism in biological research. Morphological descriptions of the larval cartilaginous skeleton are more than half a century old and comprehensive studies of early cartilage differentiation and development are missing. A proper understanding of early cranial skeletal development in X. laevis requires a detailed description that can function as a baseline for experimental studies. This basis makes it possible to evaluate skeletal defects produced by experiments on gene interactions, such as gain- or loss-of function experiments. In this study, we provide a detailed description of the pattern and timing of early cartilage differentiation and development in the larval head of X. laevis. Methods used include antibody staining, confocal laser scanning microscopy and 3D-reconstruction. Results were than compared to earlier studies based on classical histological approaches and clearing-and-staining. The first cartilage to chondrify is, in contrast to other vertebrates investigated so far, the ceratohyal. The components of the branchial basket chondrify in anterior-to-posterior direction as reported for other amphibians. Chondrification of different cartilages begins at different stages and the majority of cartilages are fully developed at Ziermann and Olsson stage 17. Our baseline data on the pattern and timing of early cartilaginous development in X. laevis is useful for evaluation of experiments which alter head skeletal development as well as for identifying heterochronic shifts in head development in other amphibians. Pattern and timing of the development of the cartilaginous head skeleton of the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, does not follow the ancestral anterior-to-posterior pattern because of the delayed development of Meckel's cartilage.

The ontogeny of the olfactory system in ceratophryid frogs (Anura, Ceratophryidae)


The aquatic-to-terrestrial shift in the life cycle of most anurans suggests that the differences between the larval and adult morphology of the nose are required for sensory function in two media with different physical characteristics. However, a better controlled test of specialization to medium is to compare adult stages of terrestrial frogs with those that remain fully aquatic as adults. The Ceratophryidae is a monophyletic group of neotropical frogs whose diversification from a common terrestrial ancestor gave rise to both terrestrial (Ceratophrys, Chacophrys) and aquatic (Lepidobatrachus) adults. So, ceratophryids represent an excellent model to analyze the morphology and possible changes related to a secondary aquatic life. We describe the histomorphology of the nose during the ontogeny of the Ceratophryidae, paying particular attention to the condition in adult stages of the recessus olfactorius (a small area of olfactory epithelium that appears to be used for aquatic olfaction) and the eminentia olfactoria (a raised ridge on the floor of the principal cavity correlated with terrestrial olfaction). The species examined (Ceratophrys cranwelli, Chacophrys pierottii, Lepidobatrachus laevis, and L. llanensis) share a common larval olfactory organ composed by the principal cavity, the vomeronasal organ and the lateral appendix. At postmetamorphic stages, ceratophryids present a common morphology of the nose with the principal, middle, and inferior cavities with characteristics similar to other neobatrachians at the end of metamorphosis. However, in advanced adult stages, Lepidobatrachus laevis presents a recessus olfactorius with a heightened (peramorphic) development and a rudimentary (paedomorphic) eminentia olfactoria. Thus, the adult nose in Lepidobatrachus laevis arises from a common developmental ‘terrestrial’ pathway up to postmetamorphic stages, when its ontogeny leads to a distinctive morphology related to the evolutionarily derived, secondarily aquatic life of adults of this lineage. Transverse section through the left olfactory organ of the secondarily aquatic ceratophryid frog Lepidobatrachus laevis, showing heightened (peramorphic) development of the recessus olfactorius, a patch of sensory epithelium associated with aquatic olfaction. This, combined with a reduced (paedomorphic) eminentia olfactoria, shows the extreme of a trend within genus of morphological change related to an aquatic lifestyle, a derived condition among ceratophryids.

A potential link between lateral semicircular canal orientation, head posture, and dietary habits in extant rhinos (Perissodactyla, Rhinocerotidae)


Extant rhinoceroses share the characteristic nasal horn, although the number and size of horns varies among the five species. Although all species are herbivores, their dietary preferences, occipital shapes, and common head postures vary. Traditionally, to predict the “usual” head posture (the most used head posture of animals during normal unstressed activities, i.e., standing) of rhinos, the occipital shape was used. While a backward inclined occiput implies a downward hanging head (often found in grazers), a forward inclined occiput is related to the horizontal head posture in browsing rhinos. In this study, the lateral semicircular canal (LSC) of the bony labyrinth was virtually reconstructed from µCT-images in order to investigate a possible link between LSC orientation and head posture in extant rhinoceroses. The usual head posture was formerly reconstructed for several non-rhinoceros taxa with the assumption that the LSC of the inner ear is held horizontal (parallel to the ground) during normal activity of the living animal. The current analysis of the LSC orientation resulted in a downward inclined usual head posture for the grazing white rhinoceros and a nearly horizontal head posture in the browsing Javan rhinoceros. The other three browsing or mixed feeding species show subhorizontal (closer to horizontal than a downgrade inclination) head postures. The results show that anatomical and behavioral aspects, like occipital shape, presence and size of horns/tusk-like lower incisors, as well as feeding and feeding height preferences influence the usual head posture. Because quantitative behavioral data are lacking for the usual head postures of the extant rhinos, the here described relationship between the LSC orientation and the resulting head posture linked to feeding preferences gives new insights. The results show, that the inner ear provides additional information to interpret usual head postures linked to feeding preferences that can easily be adapted to fossil rhinoceroses. The extant African white rhinoceros (left) is a pure grazer, while the extant Asiatic Javan rhinoceros is a pure browser (right). The presented head postures are according to horizontally oriented lateral semicircular canals (LSCs) of the inner ear. There seems to be a link between the orientation of the LSCs within the skull and the feeding preferences in extant rhinoceroses.

Developmental mechanisms of longitudinal stripes in the Japanese four-lined snake


The developmental mechanisms of color patterns formation and its evolution remain unclear in reptilian sauropsids. We, therefore, studied the pigment cell mechanisms of stripe pattern formation during embryonic development of the snake Elaphe quadrivirgata. We identified 10 post-ovipositional embryonic developmental stages based on external morphological characteristics. Examination for the temporal changes in differentiation, distribution, and density of pigment cells during embryonic development revealed that melanophores first appeared in myotome and body cavity but not in skin surface at Stage 5. Epidermal melanophores were first recognized at Stage 7, and dermal melanophores and iridophores appeared in Stage 9. Stripe pattern first appeared to establish at Stage 8 as a spatial density gradient of epidermal melanophores between the regions of future dark brown longitudinal stripes and light colored background. Our study, thus, provides a comprehensive pigment-cell-based understanding of stripe pattern formation during embryonic development. We briefly discuss the importance of the gene expression studies by considering the biologically relevant theoretical models with standard developmental staging for understanding reptilian color pattern evolution. We described 10 post-ovipositional embryonic developmental stages of Elaphe quadrivirgata embryos. We examined temporal changes in the differentiation, distribution, and density of pigment cells during embryonic development.

Who wins in the weaning process? Juvenile feeding morphology of two freshwater mussel species


The global decline of freshwater mussels can be partially attributed to their complex life cycle. Their survival from glochidium to adulthood is like a long obstacle race, with juvenile mortality as a key critical point. Mass mortality shortly after entering into a juvenile state has been reported in both wild and captive populations, thus weakening the effective bivalve population. A similar phenomenon occurs during metamorphosis in natural and hatchery populations of juvenile marine bivalves. Based on a morphological analysis using scanning electron microscopy of newly formed juveniles of the freshwater species Margaritifera margaritifera (L.) (Margaritiferidae) and Unio mancus Lamarck (Unionidae), we show that a second metamorphosis, consisting of drastic morphological changes, occurs that leads to suspension feeding in place of deposit feeding by the ciliated foot. We hypothesize that suspension feeding in these two species improves due to a gradual development of several morphological features including the contact between cilia of the inner gill posterior filaments, the inner gill reflection, the appearance of the ctenidial ventral groove and the formation of the pedal palps. Regardless of the presence of available food, a suspension feeding mode replaces deposit feeding, and juveniles unable to successfully transition morphologically or adapt to the feeding changes likely perish. The decline of freshwater mussels (Unionoida) is attributed to their complex life cycle and mass mortality of juveniles has been reported. We show that a second metamorphosis occurs and juveniles unable to successfully transition perish.

Expression of caveolin-1 in the interfollicular but not the follicle-associated epithelial cells in the bursa of fabricius of chickens


The surface epithelium of the bursa of Fabricius consists of interfollicular (IFE) and follicle-associated epithelium (FAE). The IFE comprises (i) cylindrical-shaped secretory cells (SC) and (ii) cuboidal basal cells (BCs). The FAE provides histological and two-way functional connections between the bursal lumen and medulla of the follicle. We used a carbon solution and anti-caveolin-1 (Cav-1) to study the endocytic activity of FAE. Carbon particles entered the intercellular space of FAE, but the carbon particles were not internalized by the FAE cells. Cav-1 was not detectable in the FAE cells or the medulla of the bursal follicle. The absence of Cav-1 indicates that no caveolin-mediated endocytosis occurs in the FAE cells, B cells, bursal secretory dendritic cells (BSDC), or reticular epithelial cells. Surprisingly, a significant number of Cav-1 positive cells can be found among the SC, which are designated SC II. Cav-1 negative cell are called SC I, and they produce mucin for lubricating the bursal lumen and duct. Occasionally, BCs also express Cav-1, which suggests that BC is a precursor of a SC. Transmission electron microscopy confirmed the existence of type I and II SC. The SC II are highly polarized and have an extensive trans-Golgi network that is rich in different granules and vesicles. Western blot analysis of bursa lysates revealed a 21–23 kDa compound (caveolin) and Filipin fluorescence histochemistry provided evidence for intracellular cholesterol. High amount of cholesterol in the feces shows the cholesterol efflux from SC II. The presence of Cav-1 and cholesterol in SC II indicates, that the bursa is a complex organ in addition to possessing immunological function contributes to the cholesterol homeostasis in the chickens. The bursa of Fabricius comprises two units: (i) the FAE plus the follicle is a primary lymphoid organ, committed to B cell differentiation and (ii) the IFE. Type I SC produce mucus and type II SC express Cav-1 and contribute to cholesterol homeostasis.

Ear ossicle morphology of the Jurassic euharamiyidan Arboroharamiya and evolution of mammalian middle ear


The middle ear bones of Mesozoic mammals are rarely preserved as fossils and the morphology of these ossicles in the earliest mammals remains poorly known. Here, we report the stapes and incus of the euharamiyidan Arboroharamiya from the lower Upper Jurassic (∼160 Ma) of northern China, which represent the earliest known mammalian middle ear ossicles. Both bones are miniscule in relation to those in non-mammalian cynodonts. The skull length/stapedial footplate diameter ratio is estimated as 51.74 and the stapes length as the percentage of the skull length is 4%; both numbers fall into the stapes size ranges of mammals. The stapes is “rod-like” and has a large stapedial foramen. It is unique among mammaliaforms in having a distinct posterior process that is interpreted as for insertion of the stapedius muscle and homologized to the ossified proximal (stapedial) end of the interhyal, on which the stapedius muscle attached. The incus differs from the quadrate of non-mammalian cynodonts such as morganucodontids in having small size and a slim short process. Along with lack of the postdentary trough and Meckelian groove on the medial surface of the dentary, the ossicles suggest development of the definitive mammalian middle ear (DMME) in Arboroharamiya. Among various higher-level phylogenetic hypotheses of mammals, the one we preferred places “haramiyidans” within Mammalia. Given this phylogeny, development of the DMME took place once in the allotherian clade containing euharamiyidans and multituberculates, probably independent to those of monotremes and therians. Thus, the DMME has evolved at least three times independently in mammals. Alternative hypothesis that placed “haramiyidans” outside of Mammalia would require independent acquisition of the DMME in multituberculates and euharamiyidans as well as parallel evolution of numerous derived similarities in the dentition, occlusion pattern, mandibles, cranium, and postcranium between the two groups and between “haramiyidans” and other mammals. J. Morphol., 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Bony labyrinth morphology in early neopterygian fishes (Actinopterygii: Neopterygii)


Endocasts of the osseous labyrinth have the potential to yield information about both phylogenetic relationships and ecology. Although bony labyrinth morphology is well documented in many groups of fossil vertebrates, little is known for early Neopterygii, the major fish radiation containing living teleosts, gars and the bowfin. Here, we reconstruct endocasts of the bony labyrinth and associated structures for a sample of Mesozoic neopterygian fishes using high-resolution computed tomography. Our sample includes taxa unambiguously assigned to either the teleost (Dorsetichthys, “Pholidophorus,” Elopoides) and holostean (“Aspidorynchus,” “Caturus,” Heterolepidotus) total-groups, as well as examples of less certain phylogenetic position (an unnamed parasemionotid and Dapedium). Our models provide a test of anatomical interpretations for forms where bony labyrinths were reconstructed based on destructive tomography (“Caturus”) or inspection of the lateral wall of the cranial chamber (Dorsetichthys), and deliver the first detailed insights on inner ear morphology in the remaining taxa. With respect to relationships, traits apparent in the bony labyrinth and associated structures broadly support past phylogenetic hypotheses concerning taxa agreed to have reasonably secure systematic placements. Inner ear morphology supports placement of Dapedium with holosteans rather than teleosts, while preserved structure in the unnamed parasemionotid is generalized to the degree that it provides no evidence of close affinity with either of the crown neopterygian lineages. This study provides proof-of-concept for the systematic utility of the inner ear in neopterygians that, in combination with similar findings for earlier-diverging actinopterygian lineages, points to the substantial potential of this anatomical system for addressing the longstanding questions in the relationships of fossil ray-finned fishes to one another and living groups. J. Morphol., 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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The colonic groove of the plains viscacha (Lagostomus maximus): Histochemical evidence of an abrupt change in the glycosylation pattern of goblet cells


The ascending colon of most rodent species shows a longitudinal colonic groove that works as a retrograde transport pathway for a mixture of bacteria and mucus toward the cecum. We describe the morphology and glycosylation pattern of the colonic groove of Lagostomus maximus to analyze the role of mucins in this anatomical feature. We also studied the distribution pattern of the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) to evaluate their regulatory influence on gut motility. The groove originated near the cecocolic junction and extended along the mesenteric side of the ascending colon, limited at both ends by nonpapillated ridges. These ridges divided the lumen of the ascending colon into two compartments: a narrow channel and a large channel, called the groove lumen and the main lumen, respectively. The histochemical analysis showed differences in the glycosylation pattern of the goblet cells inside and outside the groove. Unlike the mucosa lining the main lumen of the colon, the groove was rich in goblet cells that secrete sulfomucins. The PA/Bh/KOH/PAS technique evidenced an abrupt change in the histochemical profile of goblet cells, which presented a negative reaction in the groove and a strongly positive one in the rest of the colonic mucosa. The anti-c-kit immunohistochemical analysis showed different ICC subpopulations in the ascending colon of L. maximus. Of all types identified, the ICC-SM were the only cells located solely within the colonic groove. The groove was formed by two nonpapillated ridges (R). These ridges divided the lumen of the ascending colon into two compartments: the groove lumen (G) and the large main lumen (MLu). The histochemical analysis revealed significant differences among goblet cells in and out of the colonic groove, being this the first time an abrupt change in the glycosylation pattern of the intestinal tract of L. maximus is described (see dotted lines).

Allometry and morphometrics of clypeal membrane size and shape in Nicrophorus (Coleoptera: Silphidae)


Contests between same-sex opponents over resources necessary for reproduction, as well interactions used to discern mate quality, often involve exaggerated traits wherein large individuals have disproportionately larger traits. This positive allometric scaling of weapons or signals facilitates communication during social interactions by accentuating body size differences between individuals. Typically, males carry these exaggerated traits, as males must compete over limited female gametes. However, in Nicrophorus beetles both males and females engage in physical contests over the vertebrate carcasses they need to provision and raise offspring. Male and female Nicrophorus beetles have extended clypeal membranes directly above their mandibles, which could serve as signals. We investigated the scaling relationships between clypeal membrane size and shape and body size for five species of North American burying beetle to determine whether clypeal membranes contain exaggerated body size information. We found that clypeal membranes for both sexes of all species scaled positively with body size (slope > 1). Three of the five species also displayed sexual dimorphism in aspects of clypeal membrane size and shape allometry despite lack of dimorphism in body size. In two dimorphic species, small male clypeal membranes were statistically indistinguishable from the female form. We conclude that colored clypeal membranes in Nicrophorus beetles do contain exaggerated body size information. Observed patterns of dimorphism suggest that males sometimes experience stronger selection on marking size and shape, which might be explained by life history differences among species. Nicrophorus clypeal membranes exaggerate body size, sometimes more noticeably in males.

Ultrastructure of spermatozoa of spider crabs, family Mithracidae (Crustacea, Decapoda, Brachyura): Integrative analyses based on morphological and molecular data


Recent studies based on morphological and molecular data provide a new perspective concerning taxonomic aspects of the brachyuran family Mithracidae. These studies proposed a series of nominal changes and indicated that the family is actually represented by a different number and representatives of genera than previously thought. Here, we provide a comparative description of the ultrastructure of spermatozoa and spermatophores of some species of Mithracidae in a phylogenetic context. The ultrastructure of the spermatozoa and spermatophore was observed by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The most informative morphological characters analysed were thickness of the operculum, shape of the perforatorial chamber and shape and thickness of the inner acrosomal zone. As a framework, we used a topology based on a phylogenetic analysis using mitochondrial data obtained here and from previous studies. Our results indicate that closely related species share a series of morphological characteristics of the spermatozoa. A thick operculum, for example, is a feature observed in species of the genera Amphithrax, Teleophrys, and Omalacantha in contrast to the slender operculum observed in Mithraculus and Mithrax. Amphithrax and Teleophrys have a rhomboid perforatorial chamber, while Mithraculus, Mithrax, and Omalacantha show a wider, deltoid morphology. Furthermore, our results are in agreement with recently proposed taxonomic changes including the separation of the genera Mithrax (previously Damithrax), Amphithrax (previously Mithrax) and Mithraculus, and the synonymy of Mithrax caribbaeus with Mithrax hispidus. Overall, the spermiotaxonomy of these species of Mithracidae represent a novel set of data that corroborates the most recent taxonomic revision of the family and can be used in future taxonomic and phylogenetic studies within this family. The key characters found to the spermatozoa ultrastructure are the operculum, perforatorial chamber, and inner acrosomal zone. All these structures allowed the separation of the species in different genera and corroborate the molecular phylogeny.

Functional morphology of the gonoduct of the viviparous teleost Poeciliopsis gracilis (Heckel, 1848) (Poeciliidae)


Female teleosts do not develop Müllerian ducts; consequently, the ovary of teleosts contains two zones: germinal and gonoduct. The gonoduct lacks germinal cells, but has relevant functions in the reproductive process. We describe the functional morphology of the gonoduct in the viviparous teleost Poeciliopsis gracilis during nongestation and gestation stages. This study tests the hypothesis that the gonoduct functions as a barrier between the germinal zone and the exterior. By providing information about morphology and function of the gonoduct we show that this part of the ovary has an essential role in the reproduction of teleosts. The ovaries were processed by histological technique and stained with hematoxylin-eosin (H-E), Masson's trichrome, toluidine blue and periodic acid-Schiff (PAS). The gonoduct is divided into three regions: cephalic, middle, and caudal. In the cephalic and middle regions there are mucosal folds that extend into the gonoductal lumen, forming structures similar to a cervix. The caudal region has two portions: the anterior contains a dorsal invagination and exocrine glands among columnar cells; the posterior has a ventral flexion and stratified epithelium with apical secretory cells. The morphology of this epithelium indicates two functions: (a) secretory by the apical columnar cells, and (b) protection through the stratification. Another peculiarity of the caudal region is that both ducts, reproductive and digestive, converge in a common cavity at their caudal ends, forming a cloacal region. The histology of the gonoduct indicates relevant functions including: (1) the control of the luminal diameter by the muscle and the presence of mucosal folds, like a cervix; (2) the relationship with the spermatozoa during insemination and storing them in mucosal folds; (3) the support of immunological processes; (4) secretory activities; (5) forming the duct during birth; and (6) possibly, acts as a barrier against parasite infestations. The ovary of teleosts is formed by two zones: germinal and gonoduct. The gonoductal wall consist of: epithelium, connective tissue, cells of the immune system, smooth muscle, and serosa. The gonoduct in viviparous species is the barrier between the germinal zone where gestation occur and the exterior. The histology of the gonoduct indicates relevant functions including: (1) the control of the luminal diameter by the muscle and the presence of mucosal folds, like cervix; (2) the relationship with the spermatozoa during the insemination and storing them in mucosal folds; (3) the support of immunological processes; (4) secretory activities; (5) forming the duct during birth; and (6) possibly, the retention of parasites.

Three-dimensional reconstruction of the pharyngeal gland cells in the predatory nematode Pristionchus pacificus


Pristionchus pacificus is a model system in evolutionary biology and for comparison to Caenorhabditis elegans. As a necromenic nematode often found in association with scarab beetles, P. pacificus exhibits omnivorous feeding that is characterized by a mouth-form dimorphism, an example of phenotypic plasticity. Eurystomatous animals have a dorsal and a sub-ventral tooth enabling predatory feeding on other nematodes whereas stenostomatous animals have only a dorsal tooth and are microbivorous. Both mouth forms of P. pacificus, like all members of the Diplogastridae family, lack the grinder in the terminal bulb of the pharynx resulting in a fundamentally different organization of several pharynx-associated structures. Here, we describe the three-dimensional reconstruction of the pharyngeal gland cells in P. pacificus based on serial transmission electron microscopical analysis of 2527 sections of 50 nm thickness. In comparison to C. elegans, P. pacificus lacks two gland cells (g2) usually associated with grinder function, whereas the three gland cells of g1 (g1D, g1VL, and g1VR) are very prominent. The largest expansion is seen for g1D, which has an anterior process that opens into the buccal cavity through a canal in the dorsal tooth. We provide the morphological description and fine structural analysis of the P. pacificus gland cells, the behavior of the pharynx and preliminary insight into exocytosis of gland cell vesicles in P. pacificus. Three-dimensional reconstruction of the pharyngeal gland cells in the predatory nematode Pristionchus pacificus. In comparison to Caenorhabditis elegans, P. pacificus has only three gland cells, all of which show massive expansions of their cell bodies. The dorsal gland cell has a long anterior process that opens through the dorsal tooth into the buccal cavity, whereas the two ventral glands open into the posterior metacorpus.

Ovarian structure and oogenesis of the extremophile viviparous teleost Poecilia mexicana (Poeciliidae) from an active sulfur spring cave in Southern Mexico


The structure of the ovary and oogenesis of Poecilia mexicana from an active sulfur spring cave is documented. Poecilia mexicana is the only poeciliid adapted to a subterranean environment with high hydrogen sulfide levels and extreme hypoxic conditions. Twenty females were captured throughout one year at Cueva del Azufre, located in the State of Tabasco in Southern Mexico. Ovaries were processed with histological techniques. P. mexicana has a single, ovoid ovary with ovigerous lamella that project to the ovarian lumen. The ovarian wall presents abundant loose connective tissue, numerous melanomacrophage centers and large blood vessels, possibly associated with hypoxic conditions. The germinal epithelium bordering the ovarian lumen contains somatic and germ cells forming cell nests projecting into the stroma. P. mexicana stores sperm in ovarian folds associated with follicles at different developmental phases. Oogenesis in P. mexicana consisted of the following stages: (i) oogonial proliferation, (ii) chromatin nucleolus, (iii) primary growth, subdivided into: (a) one nucleolus, (b) multiple nucleoli, (c) droplet oils-cortical alveoli steps; (iv) secondary growth, subdivided in: (a) early secondary growth, (b) late secondary growth, and (c) full grown. Follicular atresia was present in all stages of follicular development; it was characterized by oocyte degeneration, where follicle cells hypertrophy and differentiate in phagocytes. The ovary and oogenesis are similar to these seen in other poeciliids, but we found frequent atretic follicles, melanomacrophage centers, reduced fecundity and increased of offspring size. Poecilia mexicana is adapted to high hydrogen sulfide and hypoxic conditions. As in viviparous teleosts, the ovary is the site not only for oogenesis but also for gestation. The ovary and oogenesis are similar to these seen in other poeciliids, but occur frequent atretic follicles, melanomacrophage centers, reduced fecundity, and increased of offspring size.

Distinct histomorphology for growth arrest and digitate outgrowth in cultivated Haliclona sp. (Porifera: Demospongiae)


The use of sponges in biotechnological processes is limited by the supply problem, and sponge biomass production is becoming a current topic of research. The distinction between characteristics for growth and growth arrest is also important for environmental monitoring. In this study, we analyze the morphology of the digitate outgrowths from the sponge Haliclona sp. The sponge Haliclona sp. was successfully cultivated for 14 months in a closed system. The morphological characterization of growth arrest was performed after submitting explants to starvation-stress for approximately 2 weeks, to correlate morphology with growth and growth arrest. The digitate outgrowth showed three distinct regions: mature (MR), transition (TR) and immature (IR). Our data suggest a growth developmental program, with collagen fascicles guiding axial growth in IR, followed by progressive development of choanocyte chambers and large aquiferous systems at the more mature proximal region (choanosome). The intercalation of choanocyte chambers and small aquiferous systems inside collagen fascicles previously originated at the IR region can be responsible for thickening expansion and conversion of the collagen fascicles into columnar choanosome in MR. The growth arrest after starvation-stress assay showed morphological changes in the IR corroborating collagen in the extreme tip of the digitate outgrowth as an important role in guiding of axial growth of Haliclona sp. The identification of distinct morphologies for growth and growth arrest suggest a growth developmental program, and these data could be useful for further investigations addressing sponge biomass gain and environmental monitoring. Haliclona sp. axial extension is a result of collagen fascicles pushing forward the tip pinachoderm of immature region. Lateral expansion is a result of choanosome presence in transitory and mature region. The growth arrested morphology supports it.

Gross brain morphology of the armoured catfish Rineloricaria heteroptera, Isbrücker and Nijssen (1976), (Siluriformes: Loricariidae: Loricariinae): A descriptive and quantitative approach


The gross morphology of the brain of Rineloricaria heteroptera and its relation to the sensory/behavioural ecology of the species is described and discussed. The sexual and ontogenetic intraspecific variation in the whole brain length and mass, as well as within/between the eight different brain subdivisions volumes, is also examined and discussed. Negative allometry for the whole brain length/mass and relative growth of the telencephalon and optic tecta was observed. Positive allometry was observed for the relative growth of the olfactory bulbs and medulla oblongata. Univariate and multivariate statistical analyses did not reveal significant differences in the brain subdivision growth rates among sexes and/or developmental stages, except for the optic tectum and some portions of the medulla oblongata, with juveniles and males showing more developed optic tecta and medullary subdivisions, respectively. The growth rates for each brain subdivision were relatively constant, and the slopes of the growth equations were almost parallel, except for those of the olfactory bulbs and medulla oblongata subdivisions, suggesting some degree of tachyauxesis of subdivisions against the entire brain. The corpus cerebelli was the more voluminous brain subdivision in most specimens (principally adults), followed by the optic tectum (the more voluminous subdivision in juveniles), hypothalamus, and telencephalon, in that order. Differences in the number of lamellae and relative size of the olfactory organ were also detected among developmental stages, which were more numerous and larger in adults. Based on these results, it is possible to infer an ontogenetic shift in the habitat/resource use and behaviour of R. heteroptera. Vision, primarily routed through the optic tectum, could be fundamental in early stages, whereas in adults, olfaction and taste, primarily routed through the olfactory bulbs and medulla oblongata, play more important roles. Generalized brain of Rineloricaria heteroptera (Siluriformes: Loricariidae: Loricariinae); (a) dorsal, (b) lateral (left side), and (c) ventral views, showing major brain structures/subdivisions. Scale bar = 2 mm.

Burrowing with a kinetic snout in a snake (Elapidae: Aspidelaps scutatus)


Of the few elongate, fossorial vertebrates that have been examined for their burrowing mechanics, all were found to use an akinetic, reinforced skull to push into the soil, powered mostly by trunk muscles. Reinforced skulls were considered essential for head-first burrowing. In contrast, I found that the skull of the fossorial shield-nosed cobra (Aspidelaps scutatus) is not reinforced and retains the kinetic potential typical of many non-fossorial snakes. Aspidelaps scutatus burrows using a greatly enlarged rostral scale that is attached to a kinetic snout that is independently mobile with respect to the rest of the skull. Two mechanisms of burrowing are used: (1) anteriorly directed head thrusts from a loosely bent body that is anchored against the walls of the tunnel by friction, and (2) side-to-side shovelling using the head and rostral scale. The premaxilla, to which the rostral scale is attached, lacks any direct muscle attachments. Rostral scale movements are powered by, first, retractions of the palato-pterygoid bar, mediated by a ligament that connects the anterior end of the palatine to the transverse process of the premaxilla and, second, by contraction of a previously undescribed muscle slip of the m. retractor pterygoidei that inserts on the skin at the edge of the rostral scale. In derived snakes, palatomaxillary movements are highly conserved and power prey capture and transport behaviors. Aspidelaps scutatus has co-opted those mechanisms for the unrelated function of burrowing without compromising the original feeding functions, showing the potential for evolution of functional innovations in highly conserved systems. The shield-nosed snake (Aspidelaps scutatus) co-opts structures usually used for feeding to perform a new burrowing function. A new muscle is described. Burrowing occurs without a reinforced skull, which has previously been considered necessary.

Structure of supporting elements in the dorsal fin of percid fishes


The dorsal fin is one of the most varied swimming structures in Acanthomorpha, the spiny-finned fishes. This fin can be present as a single contiguous structure supported by bony spines and soft lepidotrichia, or it may be divided into an anterior, spiny dorsal fin and a posterior, soft dorsal fin. The freshwater fish family Percidae exhibits especially great variation in dorsal fin spacing, including fishes with separated fins of varying gap length and fishes with contiguous fins. We hypothesized that fishes with separated dorsal fins, especially those with large gaps between fins, would have stiffened fin elements at the leading edge of the soft dorsal fin to resist hydrodynamic loading during locomotion. For 10 percid species, we measured the spacing between dorsal fins and calculated the second moment of area of selected spines and lepidotrichia from museum specimens. There was no significant relationship between the spacing between dorsal fins and the second moment of area of the leading edge of the soft dorsal fin. In fishes the dorsal fin can be a single contiguous structure (red) or it may be separated (blue) into an anterior, spiny dorsal fin and a posterior, soft dorsal fin. We hypothesized that fishes with separated dorsal fins would have stiffened fin elements at the leading edge of the soft dorsal fin in order to resist hydrodynamic loading during swimming. Our micro-CT-data showed no significant difference in cross-sectional shape or size between the leading edge of the soft dorsal fin in fishes with separated fins and the equivalent fin element in fishes with contiguous fins.

An examination of surface epithelium structures of the embryo across the genus Poeciliopsis (Poeciliidae)


In viviparous, teleost fish, with postfertilization maternal nutrient provisioning, embryonic structures that facilitate maternal-fetal nutrient transfer are predicted to be present. For the family Poeciliidae, only a handful of morphological studies have explored these embryonic specializations. Here, we present a comparative morphological study in the viviparous poeciliid genus, Poeciliopsis. Using microscopy techniques, we examine the embryonic surface epidermis of Poeciliopsis species that vary in their level of postfertilization maternal nutrient provisioning and placentation across two phylogenetic clades and three independent evolutionary origins of placentation. We focus on surface features of the embryo that may facilitate maternal-fetal nutrient transfer. Specifically, we studied cell apical-surface morphology associated with the superficial epithelium that covers the body and sac (yolk and pericardial) of embryos at different developmental stages. Scanning electron microscopy revealed common surface epithelial cells across species, including pavement cells with apical-surface microridges or microvilli and presumed ionocytes and/or mucus-secreting cells. For three species, in the mid-stage embryos, the surface of the body and sac were covered in microvillus epithelium. The remaining species did not display microvillus epithelium at any of the stages examined. Instead, their epithelium of the body and sac were composed of cells with apical-surface microridges. For all species, in the late stage embryos, the surface of the body proper was composed of apical-surface microridges in a “fingerprint-like arrangement.” Despite the differences in the surface epithelium of embryos across Poeciliopsis species and embryonic developmental stages, this variation was not associated with the level of postfertilization maternal nutrient provisioning. We discuss these results in light of previous morphological studies of matrotrophic, teleost fish, phylogenetic relationships of Poeciliopsis species, and our earlier comparative microscopy work on the maternal tissue of the Poeciliopsis placenta. Across Poeciliopsis species examined in this study, the epithelial surface features of the embryo, such as the microvillus epithelium shown here, appear to be associated with phylogenetic relationship not level of postfertilization maternal nutrient provisioning.

Patterns of chondrification and ossification in the skull of Graptemys pseudogeographica, the false map turtle (Emydidae)


Patterns of ossification and chondrification are well-described for several species of turtles, but details of the chondrocranial anatomy are known for only a handful of species. Cleared and double-stained embryos of Graptemys pseudogeographica were used to examine the fully formed chondrocranium and the formation, chondrification, and ossification of the cranium. The chondrocranium of G. pseudogeographica possesses an unusually large, irregularly shaped foramen epiphaniale that is joined with the fenestra olfactoria. As in other emydids, and many turtles generally, the taenia marginalis is present only as a small projection and the taenia medialis is lacking in mature stages of embryonic development. Ossification data for G. pseudogeographica are consistent with those of other Testudines in that the dentary and maxilla (dermal elements of the upper and lower jaws) ossify early, whereas the articular (an endochondral bone of the lower jaw) ossifies relatively late. Additionally, comparative ossification shows that the vomer is quite variable in its relative timing of ossification across Testudines. The chondrocranium of G. pseudogeographica possesses a large, irregularly shaped foramen epiphaniale. Comparative ossification of cranial elements shows that the vomer is variable in its relative timing of ossification Testudines.

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