Musculoskeletal anatomy of the pelvic fin of Polypterus: implications for phylogenetic distribution and homology of pre-and postaxial pelvic appendicular muscles

Dec 1, 2016

As a member of the most basal clade of extant ray-finned fishes (actinopterygians) and of one of the most basal clades of osteichthyans (bony fishes + tetrapods), Polypterus can provide insights into the ancestral anatomy of both ray-finned and lobe-finned fishes, including those that gave rise to tetrapods. The pectoral fin of Polypterus has been well described but, surprisingly, neither the bones nor the muscles of the pelvic fin are well known. We stained and dissected the pelvic fin of Polypterus senegalus and Polypterus delhezi to offer a detailed description of its musculoskeletal anatomy. In addition to the previously described adductor and abductor muscles, we found preaxial and postaxial muscles similar to those in the pectoral fin of members of this genus. The presence of pre-and postaxial muscles in both the pectoral and pelvic fins of Polypterus, combined with recent descriptions of similar muscles in the lobe-finned fishes Latimeria and Neoceratodus, suggests that they were present in the most recent common ancestor of bony fishes. These results have crucial implications for the evolution of appendicular muscles in both fish and tetrapods.