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Abstract

Previous studies of the metameric pattern in mesodermal tissues of chick, mouse, turtle, and amphibian embryos have indicated that segmental characteristics exist along the entire length of the embryo. This paper describes this phenomenon in a fish embryo, for some differences in the cranial segmental plan exist between the anamniote and the amniote embryos hitherto studied. Embryos of the cyprinodont, Oryzias latipes, were fixed at various times, then examined by means of stereo scanning electron microscopy. As in other vertebrate embryos, the first indication of mesodermal metamerism in this fish embryo is the occurrence of somitomeres, which are orderly, tandemly arranged units of uncondensed mesenchymal cells in the paraxial mesoderm. As many as ten somitomeres can be observed caudal to the last formed somite to the elongating tail region. In addition, 7 somitomeres are present rostral to the first definitive somite, which is segment number eight. As in other vertebrate embryos examined, somitomeres in Oryzias embryos are circular, bilaminar arrays of paraxial mesoderm that form before any indications of segmentation can be seen with the light microscope. In the trunk region these mesodermal units condense to give rise to definitive somites, but in the head they eventually disperse. Despite a fundamentally different mode of gastrulation and a relatively small number of cells in the newly formed somitomeres, cranial segmentation in Oryzias embryos was found to be more similar in number to the metameric pattern of the embryos of the bird, reptile, and mammal than to the situation found in the two amphibians studied thus far.