About 17% of embryos and fetuses in the SELH/Bc mouse stock have the anterior neural tube defect, excncephaly. No other malformations are seen. The genetic liability to exencephaly was shown to be probably genetically fixed in the SELH/Bc stock. This means that SELH/Bc embryos with successful neural tube closure are genetically the same as exencephalics. Females were significantly more likely to be affected than males (66% females).

The pattern of morphological development events during anterior neural tube closure on days 8 and 9 of gestation was compared among 322 ICR/Bc (normal), 304 SWV/Bc (normal), and 265 SELH/Bc embryos. Anterior neural tube closure was found to follow a strikingly different pattern in almost all SELH/Bc embryos than in either of the normal strains or in previous published studies. SELH/Bc embryos lack the initial contact between the anterior folds in the posterior prosencephalon/anterior mesencephalon region (Closure 2). In spite of this, all but 17% manage to close the anterior neural tube by extending caudally the later occurring normal anterior zone of contact and fusion at the most rostral aspect of the prosencephalon (Closure 3) through the region of Closure 2 to meet the zone of closure of the rhombencephalon, Closure 4. Anterior neural tube closure was completed late, and in some SELH/Bc embryos, elevation and fusion in the mesencephalon did not occur at all.

In histological sections of six- and eight-somite embryos, elevated numbers of pyknotic cells in the neuroepithelium and mesenchyme, and elevated numbers of unstained inclusions in the neuroepithelium were found; but their relationship, if any, to the abnormal pattern of neural tube closure is not clear.