When two equals three: developmental osteology and homology of the caudal skeleton in carangid fishes (Perciformes: Carangidae)


*Author for correspondence (email: ehilton@fieldmuseum.org); Current address: Geology Department, Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 606 05, USA.


SUMMARY Ontogeny often provides the most compelling evidence for primary homology in evolutionary developmental studies and is critical to interpreting complex structures in a phylogenetic context. As an example of this, we document the ontogenetic development of the caudal skeleton of Caranx crysos by examining a series of cleared and stained larval and postlarval specimens. By studying ontogeny, we are able to more accurately identify some elements of the adult caudal skeleton than is possible when studying the adult stage alone. The presence of two epurals has been used as a synapomorphy of Caranginae (homoplastically present in the scomberoidine genera Scomberoides and Oligoplites). Here we find that three epurals (ep) are present in larvae and small postlarval juveniles (i.e.,<25 mm standard length [SL]) of C. crysos and other carangines, but ep2 never ossifies and does not develop beyond its initial presence. Ep2 was last observed in a 33.6 mm SL specimen as a small nodule of very lightly stained cartilage cells and eventually disappears completely. Therefore, the two epurals present in the adult are ep1 and ep3. In other carangines examined (e.g., Selene, Selar), the rudimentary ep2 ossifies and appears to fuse to the proximal tip of ep1. In these taxa, therefore, the two epurals of the adult appear to be ep1+2 and ep3. We found no indication of three epurals at any stage in the development of Oligoplites (developmental material of Scomberoides was unavailable). We discuss the osteology of the caudal skeleton of carangoid fishes generally and emphasize the power and importance of ontogeny in the identification of primary homology.