Development of the paired fins in the paddlefish, Polyodon spathula.J Morphol 2004; 261(3):334-44JM
In Polyodon spathula, the pectoral fin radials, with the exception of the metapterygium, are derived from the decomposition of a single continuous cartilage fin plate that is continuous with the scapulocoracoid. This cartilage sheet develops two interior splits to form three precursor pieces, and these decompose in a predictable way to generate the propterygium and radials. The metapterygium is an extension of the scapulocoracoid that segments off of it during early development. To our knowledge, this has not been reported for acipenserids or other basal actinopterygians. In teleosts, the proximal radials also develop from the "break up" of an initially continuous paddle-like sheet of cartilage along the posterior edge of the scapulocoracoid, and in Polypterus and sharks a similar pattern holds. Thus, the pattern observed in Polyodon may represent the basal developmental condition for the gnathostome pectoral fin. The process underlying development of the superficially similar cartilages of the pelvic and pectoral fins is different. In the pectoral fin, the metapterygium is segmented off of the scapulocoracoid and other radials form from the decomposition of the cartilage plate. In contrast, individual rod-like basipterygial elements form in a close one-to-one correspondence with the middle radials of the pelvic fin, but later fuse to form an anterior element that is branched in appearance. To evaluate further claims of similarity among the pectoral and pelvic fin elements of various fishes, the course of the development of these structures must be observed. The pectoral fin and girdle in Polyodon ossifies in a different sequence than that proposed as ancestral (and highly conserved) for actinopterygians: the supracleithrum ossifies significantly before the cleithrum. The later ossification of the cleithrum in Polyodon may be related to the primary use of the caudal fin vs. the pectoral fins in their locomotion.