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Comparative anatomy of zebrafish paired and median fin muscles: Basis for functional, developmental, and macroevolutionary studies

Sep 1, 2017

In the last decades, Danio rerio became one of the most used model organisms in various evo-devo studies devoted to the fin skeletal anatomy and fin-limb transition. Surprisingly, there is not even a single paper about the detailed anatomy of the adult muscles of the five fin types of this species. In order to facilitate more integrative developmental, functional, genetic, and evolutionary studies of the appendicular musculoskeletal system of the zebrafish and to provide a basis for further comparisons with other fishes and tetrapods, we describe here the identity, overall configuration, and attachments of appendicular muscles in a way that can be easily understood and implemented by non-anatomist researchers. We show that the muscle pattern of the caudal fin is very different from patterns seen in other fins but is very consistent within teleosts. Our observations support the idea of the developmental and evolutionary distinction of the caudal fin and point out that the musculature of the adult zebrafish pectoral and pelvic fins is in general very similar. Both paired fins have superficial and deep layers of abductors and adductors going to all/most rays plus the dorsal and ventral arrectors going only to the first ray. Nevertheless, we noted three major differences between the pelvic and pectoral fins of adult zebrafishes: (i) the pectoral girdle lacks a retractor muscle, which is present in the pelvic girdle – the retractor ischii; (ii) the protractor of the pelvic girdle is an appendicular/trunk muscle, while that of the pectoral girdle is a branchiomeric muscle; (iii) the first ray of the pectoral fin is moved by an additional arrector-3. The anal and dorsal fins consist of serially repeated units, each of which comprises one half-ray and three appendicular muscles (one erector, depressor, and inclinator) on each side of the body. The outermost rays are attachment points for the longitudinal protractor and retractor. Based on our results, we discuss whether the pectoral appendage might evolutionary be closer to the head than to the pelvic appendage and whether the pelvic appendage might have been derived from the trunk/median fins. We discuss a hypothesis of paired fin origin that is a hybrid of the fin-fold and Gegenbaur’s theories. Lastly, our data indicate that D. rerio is indeed an appropriate model organism for the appendicular musculature of teleosts in particular and actinopterygians as a whole at least in the case of the paired fins.

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