Anatomy and early development of the pectoral girdle, fin, and fin spine of sturgeons (Actinopterygii: Acipenseridae).J Morphol 2015; 276(3):241-60JM
Acipenseriformes hold an important place in the evolutionary history of bony fishes. Given their phylogenetic position as extant basal Actinopterygii, it is generally held that a thorough understanding of their morphology will greatly contribute to the knowledge of the evolutionary history and the origin of diversity for the major osteichthyan clades. To this end, we examined comparative developmental series from the pectoral girdle in Acipenser fulvescens, A. medirostris, A. transmontanus, and Scaphirhynchus albus to document, describe, and compare ontogenetic and allometric differences in the pectoral girdle. We find, not surprisingly, broad congruence between taxa in the basic pattern of development of the dermal and chondral elements of the pectoral girdle. However, we also find clear differences in the details of structure and development among the species examined in the dermal elements, including the clavicle, cleithrum, supracleithrum, posttemporal, and pectoral-fin spine. We also find differences in the internal fin elements such as the distal radials as well as in the number of fin rays and their association with the propterygium. Further, there are clear ontogenetic differences during development of the dermal and chondral elements in these species and allometric variation in the pectoral-fin spine. The characters highlighted provide a suite of elements for further examination in studies of the phylogeny of sturgeons. Determining the distribution of these characters in other sturgeons may aid in further resolution of phylogenetic relationships, and these data highlight the role that ontogenetic and comparative developmental studies provide in systematics.