Myoseptal architecture of sarcopterygian fishes and salamanders with special reference to Ambystoma mexicanum.

Research paper by Sven S Gemballa, Leoni L Ebmeyer

Indexed on: 15 Dec '05Published on: 15 Dec '05Published in: Zoology


During axial undulatory swimming in fishes and salamanders muscular forces are transmitted to the vertebral axis and to the tail. One of the major components of force transmission is the myoseptal system. The structure of this system is well known in actinopterygian fishes, but has never been addressed in sarcopterygian fishes or salamanders. In this study we describe the spatial arrangement and collagen fiber architecture of myosepta in Latimeria, two dipnoans, and three salamanders in order to gain insight into function and evolution of the myoseptal system in these groups. Salamander myosepta lack prominent cones, and consist of homogenously distributed collagen fibers of various orientations that never form distinct tendons. Fiber orientations are difficult to homologize with those of fish myosepta. The myosepta of Latimeria and dipnoans (Protopterus and Neoceratodus) illustrate that major changes in architecture occurred in the sarcopterygian clade (loss of horizontal septum), in the rhipidistian (dipnoans + tetrapods) clade (loss of epineural and epipleural tendon), and in tetrapods (loss of lateral tendons and myoseptal folding). When compared to fishes, the myosepta of wholly aquatic salamanders (Ambystoma mexicanum, Amphiuma tridactylum, Necturus maculosus) do not have the lateral tendons we suppose serve to transfer muscular forces posteriorly. We propose that alternative structures (most conspicuously present in Ambystoma) perform this function: posteriorly the relative amount of connective tissue increases considerably, and myosepta are disintegrated to horizontal lamellae of connective tissue. The structures thought to be involved in modulation of body stiffness in fishes during swimming are also absent in salamanders. Our data also have implications for the hypothesis that salamander hypaxial myosepta are designed to increase shortening amplification of the hypaxial muscle fibers. The posterior hypaxial myosepta of all three salamander species possess only mediolaterally directed collagen fibers, which would indeed amplify the shortening of the associated muscle.