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Keywords:

  • caudal skeleton;
  • evo-devo;
  • homocercal fin;
  • teleost;
  • zic

The vertebrate caudal skeleton is one of the most innovative structures in vertebrate evolution and has been regarded as an excellent model for functional morphology, a discipline that relates a structure to its function. Teleosts have an internally-asymmetrical caudal fin, called the homocercal caudal fin, formed by the upward bending of the caudal-most portion of the body axis, the ural region. This homocercal type of the caudal fin ensures powerful and complex locomotion and is thought to be one of the most important evolutionary innovations for teleosts during adaptive radiation in an aquatic environment. In this review, we summarize the past and present research of fish caudal skeletons, especially focusing on the homocercal caudal fin seen in teleosts. A series of studies with a medaka spontaneous mutant have provided important insight into the evolution and development of the homocercal caudal skeleton. By comparing developmental processes in various vertebrates, we propose a scenario for acquisition and morphogenesis of the homocercal caudal skeleton during vertebrate evolution.