Neural development of the zebrafish (Danio rerio) pectoral fin. Academic Article uri icon


  • The innervation and actuation of limbs have been major areas of research in motor control. Here we describe the innervation of the pectoral fins of the larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) and its ontogeny. Imaging and genetic tools available in this species provide opportunities to add new perspectives to the growing body of work on limbs. We used immunocytological and gross histological techniques with confocal microscopy to characterize the pattern of pectoral fin nerves. We retrogradely labeled fin neurons to describe the distributions of the pectoral fin motor pool in the spinal cord. At 5 days postfertilization, four nerves innervate the pectoral fins. We found that the rostral three nerves enter the fin from the dorsal side of the fin base and service the dorsal and middle fin regions. The fourth nerve enters the fin from the ventral fin base and innervates the ventral region. We found no mediolateral spatial segregation between adductor and abductor cell bodies in the spinal cord. During the larval stage pectoral fins have one adductor and one abductor muscle with an endoskeletal disc between them. As the skeleton and muscles expand and differentiate through postlarval development, there are major changes in fin innervation including extensive elaboration to the developing muscles and concentration of innervation to specific nerves and fin regions. The pattern of larval fin innervation recorded is associated with later muscle subdivision, suggesting that fin muscles may be functionally subdivided before they are morphologically subdivided.

publication date

  • September 10, 2007