Developmental structure of the vertebral column, fins, scutes and scales in bester sturgeon, a hybrid of beluga Huso huso and sterlet Acipenser ruthenus


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In the larval bester, a hybrid sturgeon of beluga Huso huso and sterlet Acipenser ruthenus, development of cartilage around the notochord began 7 days post hatch (dph) (14·0 mm, total length, LT). The vertebral cartilage develops in the following sequence: basidorsals and basiventrals, neural canals, neural spines and ribs. The development of ribs remained incomplete in the largest specimen (181 dph, 179 mm LT) that was examined. Endoskeletal development of the fins began 4 dph for the dorsal and anal fins, 6 dph for the pectoral fin and 10 dph for the caudal and pelvic fins. Complete elements of all fins were observed by 91 dph and complete ossification of fin rays was observed by 122 dph in the double-stained specimens. Observation of the histological sections, however, suggested that ossification occurred soon after the formation of the organic matrix in the fin rays. Dorsal scutes were first visible by 25 dph, followed by the lateral and ventral scutes, which were visible by 37 and 44 dph, respectively. The number of scutes was fixed at 44, 59 and 91 dph and ossification was complete by 59 (dorsal) and 91 dph (lateral and ventral scutes) in the double-stained specimens. Ossification occurred soon after the formation of the scute organic matrix in the histological sections. Four types of scales were observed in the H. huso×A. ruthenus hybrid. Median predorsal, preanal and small scales on the anterior section of the head were visible by 59 dph. Scales on the caudal fin were visible by 91 dph and a variable assemblage of scales anterior to the anal fin was visible by 122 dph. Both the scutes and scales developed in a process that is similar to that of intramembranous ossification.