The “pseudo-craniovertebral articulation” in the deep-sea fish Stomias boa (Teleostei: Stomiidae)



Many predatory deep-sea fishes show highly specialized modifications of their feeding apparatus, e.g., elongate jaws studded with long daggerlike teeth, often combined with a very distensible stomach, to be capable of swallowing relatively large prey. These striking features can be observed in members of the marine teleost family Stomiidae. The present study gives a detailed morphological description of the mesopelagic predatory fish, Stomias boa, based on a combined approach of clearing and double staining, serial sections and dissection. In this genus, large pads made of dense connective tissue extend from the first enlarged neural arch to the ventral side of the chordal sheath, embracing the prominent exoccipitals and thus constituting a kind of double ball- and socket joint for the head. The notochordal occipito-vertebral gap is enlarged, probably not by loss of vertebral centra as is proposed for other genera of the stomiid family, e.g., in Astronesthes or Photostomias. We conclude that this “pseudo-craniovertebral articulation” serves as a functional substitute for the absent vertebrae and strengthens the flexible, anterior part of the vertebral column during extreme dorsal expansion of the gape during prey capture and swallowing. J. Morphol., 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.