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Ontogeny and homology of the skeletal elements that form the sucking disc of remoras (Teleostei, Echeneoidei, Echeneidae)



The sucking disc of the sharksuckers of the family Echeneidae is one of the most remarkable and most highly modified skeletal structures among vertebrates. We studied the development of the sucking disc based on a series of larval, juvenile, and adult echeneids ranging from 9.3 mm to 175 mm standard length. We revisited the question of the homology of the different skeletal parts that form the disc using an ontogenetic approach. We compared the initial stages of development of the disc with early developmental stages of the spinous dorsal fin in a representative of the morphologically basal percomorph Morone. We demonstrate that the “interneural rays” of echeneids are homologous with the proximal-middle radials of Morone and other teleosts and that the “intercalary bones” of sharksuckers are homologous with the distal radials of Morone and other teleosts. The “intercalary bones” or distal radials develop a pair of large wing-like lateral extensions in echeneids, not present in this form in any other teleost. Finally the “pectinated lamellae” are homologous with the fin spines of Morone and other acanthomorphs. The main part of each pectinated lamella is formed by bilateral extensions of the base of the fin spine just above its proximal tip, each of which develops a row of spinous projections, or spinules, along its posterior margin. The number of rows and the number of spinules increase with size, and they become autogenous from the body of the lamellae. We also provide a historical review of previous studies on the homology of the echeneid sucking disc and demonstrate that the most recent hypotheses, published in 2002, 2005 and 2006, are erroneous. J. Morphol. 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.