Leis' conundrum: Homology of the clavus of the ocean sunfishes. 2. Ontogeny of the median fins and axial skeleton of Ranzania laevis (Teleostei, Tetraodontiformes, Molidae)

Authors

  • G. David Johnson,

    1. Divison of Fishes, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA
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  • Ralf Britz

    Corresponding author
    1. Divison of Fishes, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA
    2. Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London, UK
    • Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
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Abstract

One of the most conspicuous characters of the ocean sunfishes, family Molidae, is the punctuation of the body by a deep, abbreviated, caudal fin-like structure extending vertically between the posterior ends of the dorsal and anal fins, termed the clavus by Fraser Brunner. Homology of the clavus has been a matter of debate since the first studies on molid anatomy in the early 1800s. Two hypotheses have been proposed: 1) It is a highly modified caudal fin; 2) It is formed by highly modified elements of the dorsal and anal fins. To resolve this homology issue, we studied the ontogeny of the molid vertebral column and median fins and compared it to that of a less morphologically derived gymnodont (see Part 1 of this study), a member of the family Tetraodontidae. We show that in molids the chorda never flexes during development, that the claval rays form from the posterior ends of the dorsal and anal fins toward the middle, thus closing the gap inward, and that elements of the molid clavus have an identical development and composition as the proximal-middle and distal radials of the regular dorsal and anal fins. We thus conclude that the molid clavus is unequivocally formed by modified elements of the dorsal and anal fin and that the caudal fin is lost in molids. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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