The structure of the dermal pectoral girdle of teleostean fishes is analyzed in relation to its functions. In bony fishes the vertebral column, with a horizontal axis, and the pectoral girdle, with a basically vertical axis, form the only skeletal links between the head and the body. The individual bones of the dermal girdle are considered as supporting units joined by a series of articulations that permit differential movement between adjacent bones. The movements mediated by this linkage system are: lateral swinging of the head relative to the body, expansion of the distance between the central areas of the two pectoral girdles to permit passage of large food items, and fore-and-aft movements of the anteroventral ends of the cleithra relative to the skull. Among other factors affecting the structure of the dermal pectoral girdle are the provision for the support of the pectoral fin base and the requirement for the effective operation of a sleeve valve between the girdle and the opercular cover.
Modifications of the dermal pectoral girdle in ostariophysine fishes are discussed. A brief history of the bony fish girdle in terms of its functional components is postulated.