Diversity of pectoral fin structure and function in fishes with labriform propulsion. Academic Article uri icon


  • Aquatic propulsion generated by the pectoral fins occurs in many groups of perciform fishes, including numerous coral reef families. This study presents a detailed survey of pectoral fin musculoskeletal structure in fishes that use labriform propulsion as the primary mode of swimming over a wide range of speeds. Pectoral fin morphological diversity was surveyed in 12 species that are primarily pectoral swimmers, including members of all labroid families (Labridae, Scaridae, Cichlidae, Pomacentridae, and Embiotocidae) and five additional coral reef fish families. The anatomy of the pectoral fin musculature is described, including muscle origins, insertions, tendons, and muscle masses. Skeletal structures are also described, including fin shape, fin ray morphology, and the structure of the radials and pectoral girdle. Three novel muscle subdivisions, including subdivisions of the abductor superficialis, abductor profundus, and adductor medialis were discovered and are described here. Specific functional roles in fin control are proposed for each of the novel muscle subdivisions. Pectoral muscle masses show broad variation among species, particularly in the adductor profundus, abductor profundus, arrector dorsalis, and abductor superficialis. A previously undescribed system of intraradial ligaments was also discovered in all taxa studied. The morphology of these ligaments and functional ramifications of variation in this connective tissue system are described. Musculoskeletal patterns are interpreted in light of recent analyses of fin behavior and motor control during labriform swimming. Labriform propulsion has apparently evolved independently multiple times in coral reef fishes, providing an excellent system in which to study the evolution of pectoral fin propulsion.

publication date

  • February 2005