• phenotypic/developmental plasticity;
  • fish median fins;
  • endoskeleton;
  • cartilage/bone;
  • developmental events;
  • developmental sequences;
  • water velocity;
  • Salvelinus


Background: Through developmental and evolutionary time, organisms respond variably to their environment not only in terms of size and shape but also in terms of timing. Developmental plasticity can potentially act on various aspects of the timing of developmental events (i.e., appearance, cessation, duration, sequence). In this study, we address the developmental plasticity of median fin endoskeleton by using exercise training on newly-hatched Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus). Results: Developmental progress of cartilage formation (i.e., chondrification) in all fins is less influenced than ossification by an increase of water velocity. The most responsive elements, meaning those elements with greater onset plasticity owing to a water velocity increase, differ in terms of early versus late developmental events. The most responsive elements are those that chondrify and to a greater extent ossify later in the development. Conclusions: Plasticity is documented for the timing of appearance (i.e., onset) and the timing of transition from cartilage to bone (i.e., transitions of skeletal states) rather than the order of events within a sequence. Similarities of plastic response in developmental patterns could be used as a powerful criterion to strengthen the identification of phenotypic modules. Developmental Dynamics 241:1507–1524, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.