Faculty Publications

Histology And Structural Integration Of The Major Morphologies Of The Cypriniform Weberian Apparatus

Document Type



comparative anatomy, ear, ossicles, Otophysi, swim bladder

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of Morphology





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The Weberian apparatus, a diagnostic feature of otophysan fishes, is a novel hearing adaptation integrating several developmental and morphological systems (ear-vertebral column-swim bladder). Otophysan fishes are one of the largest and most successful freshwater clades, with over 10,000 species across most continents. The largest otophysan order, Cypriniformes, dominates the freshwaters of Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. Spanning such a wide variety of environments, the Weberian apparatus undergoes morphological modifications to maintain functionality. Within Cypriniformes, we propose three distinct morphological classes of the Weberian apparatus based on the level of skeletal expansion around the swim bladder: simple (typical of most Cyprinidae), anterior plate (found in families such as Gyrinocheilidae, Catostomidae, and Botiidae), and encapsulated (either single-capsule as found, e.g., in Gobionidae and Cobitidae, or double-capsule as found, e.g., in Nemacheilidae and Balitoridae). Little ontological or comparative data exists regarding the construction or integration of these different morphologies, and less is known about the tissue level integration and variation within these morphologies. We used paraffin histology to document the hard and soft tissue anatomy of the Weberian apparatus in six species representing all morphological classes. We found sites of similarity across the morphologies including size and structure of the saccule, aspects of ossicle ossification, and swim bladder tunica composition, indicating potential sites of developmental and functional constraint. In contrast, we found differences across both auditory and nonauditory features in otic chamber size, ossification within ossicles and other vertebral elements, and composition of ligaments, indicating likely sites of adaptability. Some of these changes are likely evolutionary (taxonomic), but may be influenced by the environmental niche occupied by the clade. These results show a clear need for increased ontological and comparative study of the complete cypriniform Weberian apparatus, particularly histologically, as well as increased auditory studies across morphological types.


Department of Biology

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