Organization and Ontogeny of a Complex Lateral Line System in a Goby (Elacatinus lori), with a Consideration of Function and Ecology

Katie R. Nickles, Yinan Hu, John E. Majoris, Peter M. Buston, Jacqueline F. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Gobies (family Gobiidae) have a complex mechanosensory lateral line system characterized by reduced lateral line canals and a dramatic proliferation of small superficial neuromasts (on ‘‘sensory papillae’’), which are arranged in lines on the head, trunk, and tail. A suite of morphological methods was used to describe the distribution and morphology of canal and superficial neuromasts in the neon goby, Elacatinus lori, and to describe the ontogeny of the lateral line system for the first time for any gobiiform fish. Portions of only three cranial lateral line canals are retained and they contain a total of eight canal neuromasts. In addition, 128–155 superficial neuromasts are found in six head series (comprising 33 neuromast lines or rows). Superficial neuromasts are found in one body series (65–80 neuromasts arranged in three groups of vertical lines or ‘‘stitches’’) and one caudal fin series (3 lines, each located between fin rays and comprised of many small neuromasts; total of 27–53 neuromasts) extending to the tip of the caudal fin. The general distribution of neuromasts is established early during the larval stage, and neuromast numbers increase within and among lines resulting in an increase in overall complexity of the system. On day-of-hatch, a total of 22 neuromasts are present. At~15 days post-hatch, all eight cranial canal neuromasts are present, and, in post-settlement juveniles (‘‘settlers’’), they are enclosed in canals and a total of ~185 neuromasts are found on the head, trunk, and tail. All neuromasts are small (~40 lm long) and diamond-shaped, but three subpopulations (canal neuromasts, canal neuromast homologs, superficial neuromasts) are defined based on their location and their arrangement within lines (‘‘tip-to-tip’’ or ‘‘side-byside’’). The ontogeny of the lateral line system and distinctions among neuromast subpopulations help to reveal the structural and functional organization of the complex lateral line system in Elacatinus and will contribute to the interpretation of neuromast patterns in other gobiiforms. A comparison of superficial neuromast number in 12 species of Elacatinus and Tigrigobius (sister genera) revealed variation among species that live in different reef microhabitats, which suggests that adaptive evolution in the lateral line system is evident among closely related taxa.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 18 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-12-29
Acknowledgements: We thank our entire Belize field research team (C. Burns, K.Catalano, R. Chaput, C. D’Aloia, J. Ferrito, M. Foretich, R.Francis, F. Francisco, E. Schlatter, and D. Scolaro) who collected and reared gobies in Belize and in Boston. We thank Louie Kerr and his staff at the Central Microscopy Facility at the Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole) for their SEM expertise, Andrew Williston (MCZ, Museum of
Comparative Zoology, Harvard University) for his lCT expertise, and Matthew McHenry for discussions of neuromast biomechanics. Zac Tressin and Alec Mauk assisted with lCT reconstructions and histology data collection. Aubree Jones and Elizabeth Molnar helped with SEM data collection and read earlier versions of the manuscript. This work was done in partial fulfillment of the MS degree awarded to KRN.
Funded by NSF grant #1459224 to JFW, NSF #1459546 to PMB, and the George and Barbara Young Chair in Biology at University of Rhode Island to JFW.


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