• cavefish;
  • gustatory system;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • evo-devo


In the blind cave-dwelling morph of A. mexicanus, the eye degenerates while other sensory systems, such as gustation, are expanded compared to their sighted (surface-dwelling) ancestor. This study compares the development of taste buds along the jaws of each morph. To determine whether cavefish have an altered onset or rate of taste bud development, we fluorescently labeled basal and receptor cells within taste buds over a developmental series. Our results show that taste bud number increases during development in both morphs. The rate of development is, however, accelerated in cavefish; a small difference in taste bud number exists at 5 dpf reaching threefold by 22 dpf. The expansion of taste buds in cavefish is, therefore, detectable after the onset of eye degeneration. This study provides important insights into the timing of taste bud expansion in cavefish as well as enhances our understanding of taste bud development in teleosts in general. Developmental Dynamics 238:3056–3064, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.