• basioccipital;
  • first vertebra;
  • phylogeny;
  • ontogeny;
  • homology;
  • Molidae;
  • Ostraciidae


We describe the ontogeny of the occipital skull and anterior vertebrae of the molids Ranzania laevis and Masturus lanceolatus and compare it with that of the ostraciid Lactophrys sp. The first vertebra fuses to the basioccipital in early ontogeny in the two molids and previous authors thus confused that vertebra with the back of the basioccipital, so that all previous counts of their vertebral numbers are incorrect by one vertebra. As evidenced by Lactophrys sp., ostraciids are the only other tetraodontiforms with similar occipito-vertebral fusion. In contrast to the molids, additional anterior vertebrae fuse with this complex in ostraciids. We conclude that the shared occipito-vertebral fusion in molids and ostraciids and its otherwise extremely rare occurrence among teleosts provide support for a sister-group relationship of the two families. J. Morphol. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.