Chondrogenesis and homology of the visceral skeleton in the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea (Chondrichthyes: Batoidea). Academic Article uri icon


  • Chondrichthyan fishes possess visceral skeletons that differ considerably, morphologically, from those of their sister taxon, the osteichthyans. Here, we use histological techniques and whole-mount skeletal preparations to visualize and describe the sequence of visceral skeletal condensation and chondrogenesis in a chondrichthyan, the little skate (Leucoraja erinacea). We demonstrate that visceral skeletal condensation begins rostrally, with the mandibular arch, and progresses caudally with the hyoid arch and posterior branchial arches condensing soon after. We provide a detailed account of the condensation and chondrogenesis of all major components of the L. erinacea visceral skeleton and discuss these data in the context of what is known from classical descriptions of chondrichthyan visceral skeletal development. Significant differences exist between the hypobranchial and basibranchial skeleton of L. erinacea and other chondrichthyan species, and the possible evolutionary and developmental significance of this is considered. We discuss the homology of the chondrichthyan hyoid arch and, based on patterns of mesenchymal condensation, we propose a model of condensation splitting and diversification that may account for the morphological diversification of gnathostome branchial arch derivatives. Finally, we suggest that the unique presence of certain visceral skeletal elements in chondrichthyans make oviparous chondrichthyans an ideal system for addressing questions of endoskeletal axial patterning during development.

publication date

  • May 2009